“It's a very good thing,” said Peter Schwarz, a professor of economics at UNC Charlotte.
Schwarz said travelers in the Charlotte area won't see a change in prices when flying to Atlanta, Orlando or Baltimore because AirTran, which is a low-cost carrier, already flies there. However, getting to other places from those hubs may be cheaper.
“The difference is once you get to those three places, Southwest has a lot more places it goes to from there,” Schwarz said. That includes California, Texas and other parts of the Southwest. So, Schwarz said, US Airways, which is Charlotte Douglas’ main carrier, may have to lower prices about 5 percent to 10 percent to compete in those parts of the country.
Another area in which US Airways may have to compete is fees. Southwest Airlines is known as a bare-bones airline, charging travelers few fees. Travel website Truprice showed a drastic difference between US Airways and Southwest in regards to fees. To check three bags (one overweight) and make a change to a ticket (such as the day or time of the flight) totaled $260 with US Airways, compared to $50 with Southwest.
Schwarz said that difference may force US Airways to bring some of its ticket prices down.
Traveler Michael Lauricella, who had just stepped off an AirTran flight at Charlotte Douglas on Monday, was excited by the news of the buyout.
“The quality of the flights are always better on Southwest,” he said. “It has a lot cleaner, better staff, and AirTran is a little iffy sometimes.”
If the deal is approved by regulators and shareholders next year, Charlotte travelers could start to notice changes in 2012.