The airline formerly known as ValuJet. It is a budget airline, serving many routes primarily along the east coast of the United States. ValuJet's chronic maintenance problems came to light after a tragic plane crash in the Florida Everglades. After restructuring and the paying of reparations, they changed their name to AirTran Airways and forgot that their entire past existed.

From what people have told me, AirTran is still not a good airline to fly. Although their fares are cheap, and are made even cheaper through their A-Savers Internet fare specials, their service is still very poor. One friend of mine was delayed for nine hours on the ground in Pittsburgh because they had to fly an entirely new plane up from Georgia to get to New York-LaGuardia (a one-hour flight from Pgh). I have seen similar horrendous experiences on message boards, although that's not to say that every flight is necessarily bad. YMMV.

or a long-winded diatribe/cautionary tale

I can support any other reports that Airtran's service is generally poor. Svaha and I few from Pittsburgh to New York (also to LaGuardia). On the way there, we were delayed by about 2 and a half hours. Their reason was that LaGuardia has shut down one of their two runways. This seemed reasonable enough at the time, until the next day.

One thing that amused me slightly: someone's hard case wheeled suitcase had somehow had its cover ripped back, in a perverse sort of expose'. At least I didn't feel like AirTran had done that to me.

The day following, our daughter flew in on US Airways. Amusingly enough, she arrived at the scheduled time. So that's a minor strike against them. Some cubical minion at US Air must have been riding air control to make sure that their flights both arrived and departed on time.

Two days later, I fly back to Pittsburgh. Another 1 hour delay, plus an additional hour and a half on the runway. My hypothesis at the time is that AirTran has a low take off priority. Their minions are smaller then the big guys' minions. Can't push traffic control around enough to make sure their flight plans are honored. Or their mechanics and crew aren't able to get things organised in time at the terminal.

One thing that particularly disturbed me about the flight, though, was noticing that all the safety covers for the emergency air masks were bent, and irregular. It was as if the plane had crashed previously, and then someone came in with duct tape, and bailing wire, and patched things up enough so they could put the seats back in, and lash a few passengers in.

A few more days elapse. Svaha's show ends. The day following, she's supposed to fly into Pittsburgh. About an hour before she's due to arrive into town, I check the AirTran schedule. Apparently, they canceled all the flights in to Pittsburgh up to a somewhat early evening flight. I'm feeling kinda ok about this -- I have a project looming, and things to do, so I can take advantage of the time. Around a hour before that flight's scheduled arrival time, I check the web site again. It's delayed. She's still in LaGuardia after 4 hours. And as I continue to check, the flight is pushed back later and later. The departure time is almost the next day -- Arrival is sometime around 1 in the morning.

Svaha arrives safely (on a different airline) around 1:00 am (approximately 8 hours later than she was supposed to), intact and much worn out. It seems that they ran out of bailing wire at AirTran, and the plane fell off the runway into the Hudson bay.

I guess my own moral for this story is: AirTran is cheap, very cheap. Cheaper then taking a bus. But there's good odds that it will be as fast to take the bus as fly with them.

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