Southwest will reduce its AirTran Airways workforce at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport by nearly 300 jobs as the airline restructures its operation in Atlanta.

Southwest Airlines, which bought AirTran in 2011, began flights out of Atlanta last year and said it will eliminate 300 ground worker positions that will consist of baggage handlers, ticket counter and gate agents.

Southwest said it has openings for the displaced workers in other cities where it operates, only if they are willing to relocate. If they choose not to relocate they will receive severance packages and leave the company.

However, in an effort to place less emphasis on connecting flights in AirTran’s operation at Hartsfield-Jackson in November, Southwest’s plans to cut jobs in order to stabilize its flight schedule and accommodate fliers who are coming and going from the Atlanta market.

“The Southwest structure is a lot more efficient,” said Southwest’s chief commercial officer Bob Jordan, who also is president of AirTran.

Southwest’s system will focus more on “point-to-point” service instead of connecting flights. The new direction will require fewer employees, which suggests the airline will only need 800 ground workers at Hartsfield-Jackson rather than the 1,100 ground workers at AirTran now.
Southwest said Atlanta will be a “focus city” rather than the connecting hub AirTran has been.

The change, however, is a reflection of a pivotal feature of Southwest’s entry into Atlanta – a leading low-cost airline with free checked bags.

Jordan said the reduction of ground staff in Atlanta “is not a backing down of our commitment to Atlanta at all.”

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