AAI (AirTran) is probably a better bet.Diversified their network (from Atlanta and Florida in 2000 to Atlanta, Florida, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Caribbean in 2010).Cost per Available Seat Mile (excluding fuel) is lowest in the industry (below Southwest Airlines since 2004) and lower than JetBlue's. Cost is what can make or break an airline in today's environment. Fuel is a large driver which effects all airlines similarily so margins are based more on costs ex-fuel.EBIT margins excluding fuel hedges have been above Southwest's for several years.AirTran can still be seen as a growth airline where Southwest has drastically slowed growth (AirTran multiple types of aircraft allowing several city sizes where Southwest has one type which limits their flexibility). AirTran has also not penetrated a lot of the larger cities where Southwest is.AirTran's costs can be kept lower due to younger employee base (Southwest employee numbers and length of service equate to higher wages). AirTran may not be as tied to union rules (for example, being able to contract ground operations which helps maintain flexibility of going into and out of cities when profits dictate).Large popultation base in Atlanta where Southwest has not gone into yetAlready establishing international flying where Southwest is several years away. Due to interanational agreements, many of the better markets may be at capacity when Southwest is able to establish international travel.
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