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AirTran to pull out of Lexington in August

An AirTran jet arrived at Blue Grass Airport on Feb. 11, the first day of AirTran's  direct flights to Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, Fla.
An AirTran jet arrived at Blue Grass Airport on Feb. 11, the first day of AirTran's direct flights to Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, Fla.

Southwest Airlines, which acquired AirTran Airways last year, announced Friday that it intends to stop operating in Lexington, where AirTran offers daily non-stop service to Orlando, Fla.

Lexington's Blue Grass Airport is one of six nationally where Southwest will cease AirTran operations effective Aug. 12, the company said. The others are Huntsville, Ala.; Allentown and Harrisburg, Pa.; Sarasota, Fla.; and White Plains, N.Y. All were small operations; the largest, White Plains, offers three daily non-stop flights.

"The airline industry continues to face many challenges, including significantly higher fuel costs," AirTran Airways president Bob Jordan said in a statement explaining the cuts. "We must do everything we can to operate efficiently and profitably, align service with customer demand, and deliver the legendary customer service for which both airlines are known."

The six airports join nine others, including ones in Knoxville and Charleston, W.Va., where service cuts were previously announced.

Southwest and AirTran intend to offer employees at the affected airports the opportunity to move elsewhere within AirTran after operations cease.

AirTran's time in Lexington will be brief. It began operations in February 2011, offering flights to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The airline later stopped its Fort Lauderdale service, which had been three days a week. It increased its Orlando service in November from four days a week to daily.

Lexington will continue to have service to both cities. Allegiant Air flies to both cities two days a week.

"While we are disappointed that AirTran will discontinue its operation in Lexington and that Southwest will not be coming to Central Kentucky at this time, we will continue to serve our passengers with the strong service of our existing airlines and continue to develop new opportunities," Blue Grass Airport executive director Eric Frankl said in a statement.

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