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Revamped ValuJet begins service under new name

September 24, 1997
Web posted at: 4:21 p.m. EDT (2021 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Captain Value has retired.

ValuJet Airlines began operating as AirTran Airlines Wednesday, complete with a new logo (a simple script teal "a"), a new slogan ("It's something else") and a new dual-class seating system.

"Today, I'm pleased to announce that we are permanently retiring the name ValuJet and henceforth we will be known as AirTran Airlines," said company president and CEO D. Joseph Corr at a press conference held at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport.

The move is the latest step in a merger between Atlanta-based ValuJet and Orlando, Florida-based AirTran Airways. That merger is expected to be complete in November.

Corr

Corr promised to maintain ValuJet's discount pricing philosophy while adding new amenities for business travelers. An exuberant Corr, well above six feet tall and thick around the middle, posed for reporters in models of new business class seats, which he said are at least an inch wider than those on any competitor.

"We are creating a business class cabin that virtually any business can afford," said Ponder Harrison, AirTran's senior vice president for sales and marketing.

Starting November 22nd, AirTran passengers will be able to book business class seats by paying just $25 each way above the coach seat price. The airline's DC-9 planes will be reconfigured to carry 16 business class and 90 coach class passengers.

But Corr told reporters "I don't think you'll see any difference" in coach fares compared to ValuJet, which has offered seats for as little as $39 each way on some flights.

In one holdover from ValuJet days, no meals will be served, even to business class passengers, and the employees will still dress in casual attire.

All this, and new planes, too

Plane

But in a major change, AirTran passengers can book reserved seats on flights, instead of being seated on a first-come, first-served basis at the airport. In addition, seats will be available for the first time through a computerized reservation system.

Corr and Boeing official Jim Phillips also told reporters that a new plane model, the MD-95, is in production for use in 1998. AirTran has ordered 50 of the new planes, which will replace DC-9s, at a cost of more than $1 billion. The planes were specially designed for AirTran and use an engine that was jointly designed by Rolls-Royce and BMW.

The AirTran/ValuJet merger was announced in July, after more than a year of serious financial problems at ValuJet. ValuJet, launched in 1993, made a huge splash in the air travel industry with its low price structure, but nearly went bankrupt after a May 11, 1996 crash left 110 people dead. A subsequent investigation revealed a long list of previous safety citations and sharply eroded public confidence.

Corr, who has previously headed Continental and TWA and took the ValuJet job last November, said Wednesday he did not foresee a return to profitability in 1997 because of costs related to the merger. He did say he expects to add several planes to his fleet and increase staff in both Atlanta and Orlando.

Corr said additional flights will be added on some routes, but details have yet to be decided. He said the location for corporate headquarters "will not be decided for several weeks," adding that Orlando, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. all are under consideration.

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