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After its final flight Sunday, AirTran to become one with Southwest

AirTran Airways' final flight means its merger with Southwest Airlines is finally completed

AirTran Airways and Southwest Airlines will finally be one. The last AirTran flight scheduled for Sunday will retrace the route of the airline's first flight -- when it was known as ValuJet -- from Atlanta to Tampa, Fla.

AirTran Flight 1 (or Southwest Flight 5001) will leave Atlanta at 10:25 p.m. Eastern time and arrive in Tampa at 11:55 p.m. It's the same route that ValuJet flew when service began in 1993.

Southwest executives will mark the event with a few final words and a gate party will be held for all on the flight. It's full, with many longtime AirTran employees as crew members and passengers.

In Southern California, AirTran flights left Los Angeles on Nov. 1, according to Airways News.

Ticket counters and gates merged several months ago at Los Angeles International Airport. Ditto at Orange County's John Wayne Airport, where the side-by-side airlines in Terminal C had an easy transition to become one.

During the ValuJet years, the airline had two high-profile accidents. One crashed into the Everglades in Florida, killing all 110 people aboard on May 11, 1996.

The other was a 1995 engine breakup and fire that occurred before takeoff with 62 people on board, five of them crew members. Nobody died, but five passengers and a flight attendant suffered minor injuries. Another attendant was badly wounded by shrapnel from the engine.

The marriage of two low-cost carriers further reduces competition, which is worrisome for passengers who have seen some of the highest passenger loads and airfares in recent times.

The merger leaves Southwest as the second-largest U.S. carrier after Delta Air Lines.

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