Southwest Airlines planes are shown at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (June...

Southwest Airlines planes are shown at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (June 7, 2010) Credit: AP

Southwest Airlines, the major carrier operating out of Islip's Long Island MacArthur Airport, has agreed to buy rival AirTran Airways for $1.4 billion.

No immediate schedule changes at Islip were announced, and it's not clear what effect the purchase will have for Long Island.

AirTran's U.S. destinations include some Southwest doesn't yet have, such as Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and dozens of smaller U.S. cities such as San Juan, Wichita, Kan., Biloxi, Miss., and Williamsburg, Va.

Among the new vacation destinations AirTran could add to Southwest are Key West, Fla.; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Nassau/Paradise Island, Bahamas; and Cancun, Mexico.

While the deal could offer a chance for Southwest to expand Islip's flight choices, it's not clear whether such an expansion would take place. That part is up in the air.

"There is probably room to expand at MacArthur, but it's too soon to speculate," Southwest spokesman Paul Flaningan said Monday. Southwest is looking at Islip along with all its other existing airports to assess what changes to make should the sale go through, the spokesman said.

All told, the buy will extend Southwest's network by about 25 percent.

It could take up to two years to integrate the two airlines after a sale. If it is approved by shareholders, the purchase would cost Dallas-based Southwest $1.4 billion in cash and another $2 billion in assumed debt and lease obligations.

The buy "offers customers more low-fare destinations as we extend our network and diversify into new markets, including significant opportunities to and from Atlanta, the busiest airport in the U.S. and the largest domestic market we do not serve," Gary Kelly, Southwest's chief executive, said in a news release after the purchase was disclosed Monday.

It also gives the airline entree to Washington, D.C., through Ronald Reagan National Airport. And it would expand opportunities at LaGuardia and in Boston, Kelly said. "It presents us the opportunity to extend our service to many smaller domestic cities that we don't serve today, and provides access to key near-international leisure markets in the Caribbean and Mexico."

Islip Supervisor Philip Nolan said the airport management was "cautiously optimistic. . . . This, in all likelihood, will be helpful to us."

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