MIAMI – In just a few short hours, the AirTran Airways will fly its final flight. While en-route to Atlanta, I started pondering how many people AirTran/ValuJet have flown since 1993. Without a doubt, they played a role in bringing millions together for a lot of weddings, business meetings, family vacations, birthdays, and many other occasions.
Although, thousands made a lot of memories with AirTran who were not passengers.
For many, AirTran is where they spent many years of their lives as they worked for the airline which makes tonight’s flight even more bittersweet.
Below is a short story from a AirTran flight attendant who was on the “first flight” and will be working the final flight tonight.
My name is Tana Thomas and I joined AirTran Airways as a Flight Attendant in September of 1998. After having worked for Eastern Airlines for 18 years until they shut down in 1991, I thought my airline career was over. Until fate stepped in one August day in ’98 when I attended an AirTran job open house. When I met the recruiter I realized I knew her. Susan Manning was also a former Eastern Flight Attendant ,and when she said, “Tana, you know we are looking for experienced, professional people like y’all here”, sweeter words could not have been spoken. For the past seven years I had worked a very stressful job as a Traffic Manager for a TV station, and the idea of getting back to flying was thrilling. Susan made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
The following year in 1999 AirTran was the launch customer for the new B717. They held an employee contest to name the first airplane. Out of hundreds of submissions my entry, “Esprit de corps”, was chose, and I was invited to join a group of fellow employees to fly out to the Boeing Plant in Long Beach for the delivery of the first aircraft. I had gone to high school in Long Beach and at the ceremony it was my Millikan High School marching band playing as the airplane was being rolled out of the hanger. I got chills up and down my spine. Believe me, it was surreal. After all the hoopla, we boarded the plane for its “FIRST FLIGHT” back to Atlanta.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2010 when Southwest Airlines announced that it would purchase AirTran. In the summer of 2012 they started offering our employees the opportunity to transition over to their operations. However, after much soul searching I decided to stay at AirTran to the very end. They had given me a second chance to do what I loved, and I felt it only fitting. Since my seniority was now so high I was able to hold one of the the 4 crew positions on the “FINAL FLIGHT”, and see my AirTran career come FULL CIRCLE, from first to last. It will be a bittersweet occasion, but you know what they say, when one door closes another one opens and, thankfully, Southwest Airlines will be waiting in the wings to expand my horizons once again.
On Southwest’s internal blog, they posted a series called “12 Days of AirTran” in which they featured 12 AirTran employees from different work groups memories.
Jim Davis – a AirTran employee who worked in Tech-Ops – shared some of his memories while at AirTrn at the airline.
How Many Years were you with AirTran?
I was with ValuJet at the startup of the airline. In August, 2000 I returned to AirTran after being gone for a few months. I thought the grass was greener somewhere else and soon discovered it didn’t even exist. My first day back at AirTran was definitely one of my best days here.
Describe Your Best Day on the Job.
As a general rule, all days are good, some are just better than others! I Iike what I do. A huge part of that is the people I work with. We have a good time and it’s amazing what they accomplish.
Describe your Most Challenging Day on the Job.
Every day has a challenge! I’ll never forget working the de-ice pad for a couple of shifts with Robert McKeown a few years ago. We were not dressed for it and we were miserable! Icy water running down your neck and into your shoes is not covered in A&P classes.
What are you Most Excited about as we Move Toward Completing the Journey to One LUV: One Family on Dec. 28?
It’s easy to be excited about working for an airline that consistently makes a profit—and shares it with the employees. I remember someone at SWA saying ‘we would rather pay a few people a lot of money instead of paying a lot of people a little amount.’ To make that work, we have to ask a lot from the few. That’s a neat idea. I think to win in this marketplace, you have to be first, unique, or the best at what you do. We may not be the first airline out there, but we are ahead in the other two areas.
Is there Anything Else to Share?
I signed the Airworthiness Release for the first ValuJet flight, and I will sign the Airworthiness Release on AirTran final 717 flight.