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Q&A: Airline and automotive industry shakeups

Keeping up with airline changes

Three questions regarding the Southwest Airlines acquisition of AirTran Airways: 1) When will AirTran quit flying (I have a ticket for Thanksgiving) and start flying as Southwest? 2) Will Southwest accept our AirTran A-Plus rewards (eight credits equals a free one-way ticket)? Will its frequent travel policy work like that? 3) Will those of us with AirTran Visa credit cards be automatically sent Southwest credit cards, and will that company follow AirTran's policy ($1,000 worth of charges equals one credit)?

Your Thanksgiving trip won't be affected. Southwest Airlines officials say the changes brought on by the acquisition, which became official on May 2, won't be apparent before the end of this year or sometime in 2012. And they expect it will be several years before the work to combine two airlines into one is completed.

In the first half of 2012, Southwest expects to begin painting the AirTran fleet to its colors and applying its single-class seating.

Eventually the airline will consolidate the reservation and ticketing, websites and frequent flyer programs. Until that happens, it's business as usual.

One discrepancy between the way the airlines bill already has been addressed. Southwest says once full integration is achieved, the $75 change fees AirTran currently charges will go away.

Updates on the merger will be available on three websites: southwest.com, airtran.com and lowfaresfarther.com.

U.S. automaker back on top

I heard a segment on the news that General Motors had overtaken Toyota in becoming the No. 1 seller in the world. Is that true?

General Motors' strong sales in the first half of 2011 helped it supplant Toyota at No. 1 in global auto sales, according to the Associated Press. General Motors, which remains partly owned by the U.S. government after its bailout, sold 4.5 million vehicles worldwide in the first six months of 2011, earning $5.7 billion.

GM's sales in China have been particularly strong in its recovery, with the company selling 1.27 million cars and light trucks there, AOL's Daily Finance reported.

Volkswagen was second with a total of 4.13 million cars sold, and Toyota was third with 3.7 million.

Toyota's reputation has been damaged by recalls, and its sales plummeted after the March earthquake and tsunami, which slowed auto parts production in Japan. Toyota sales were down 11 percent from the first half of 2010, and 62 percent from April to June, after the earthquake.

At the same time, GM had its sixth straight profitable quarter, with net income of $2.5 billion. GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, losing the top-selling title, but re-emerged soon after, with $50 billion in funds from the government bailout.

Q&A: Airline and automotive industry shakeups 09/15/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 15, 2011 2:35pm]
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