UPDATE: Southwest has no plans to meet with AirTranSOS.
Southwest states: "As you know, we have a team of people working on how the two airlines come together if approval is granted by various regulatory authorities. Until the acquisition is approved, Southwest and AirTran will continue to operate as separate organizations.
"Throughout the integration planning process, the focus remains on leveraging the best of both airlines and finding ways to integrate them to benefit all customers once the deal closes. We did get a call from the group. No plans to meet with them."
The original post follows:
As Southwest awaits regulatory approval for its proposed acquisition of AirTran, a group of AirTran frequently flyers is mounting an online campaign demanding that Southwest retain AirTran's assigned seating, and Wi-Fi, XM and business class services.
Joe Leader, a spokesman for AirTranSOS (Save Our Seats), says the grassroots group has been in contact with Southwest about its concerns.
In true Web 2.0 fashion, the formation of AirTranSOS grew out of discussions on FlyerTalk.com, with the goal of convincing Southwest to take AirTran's best practices and to incorporate them into the merged airline, Leader says.
Leader says AirTranSOS supports the acquisition but would like to see some changes.
Southwest is known for its zoned boarding, lack of seat assignments and single class service, although it does offer Business Select for priority boarding.
But, with Southwest seeking to attract business travelers and flying to more business destinations, Southwest "has more reason than ever before" to add seat assignments and business class, Leader says.
It's an issue that several low cost carriers around the world may be facing. In Europe, easyJet, for example, is mulling scrapping its speedy boarding for assigned seating.
Leader said AirTranSOS has 474 signatories to its petition demanding that Southwest retain AirTran's business class seating, assigned seats and Wi-Fi and XM on every flight.
Petition signers threaten to take their business to another airline if their demands go unanswered, Leader says.
The petition states, in part:
We care about our airline! Please hear this petition as a rallying cry to take some of the best of AirTran and forever forward make it a part of Southwest: Our SOS: SAVE OUR SEATS! We want to be treated with dignity with assigned seats, the choice to upgrade, have seats wired with WiFi and XM, and have the ability to use frequent flyer points to fly to all the destinations of our dreams.
The petition would be sent to AirTran, Southwest and the U.S. Department of Justice, which is reviewing the impact of the proposed deal.
Although AirTranSOS is not associated with AirTran, the AirTranSOS website features an AirTran video making light of the current Southwest boarding procedure, likening it to passengers being herded onto a plane like cattle. Here's the video:
AirTranSOS, however, wants to keep Southwest's policies of no charge for bags and itinerary changes.