Merger between AirTran and Southwest could mean end of discount airfareTravelers at Baltimore's BWI airport could see a sharp rise in the cost of airfare if Southwest goes through with a proposal to buy rival AirTran.

Thanks to competition between the two airlines, BWI offers discount flights to dozens of locations - a trip to Florida and back will cost customers just over $200, and maybe less if there's a sale, the Baltimore Sun reports. Thanks to the airlines' low fares, BWI has been one of the few airports able to add passengers during the economic downturn. But that could all change if Southwest buys AirTran, removes its competition and begins charging whatever it wants for flights to Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and other popular locations.

"Travelers in Baltimore could potentially really feel the loss of competition there," Diana Moss, a vice president at the American Antitrust Institute in Washington who closely follows airlines, told the paper. "That's a huge increase in market share resulting from the merger."

Currently, Southwest is BWI's No. 1 carrier, and AirTran is a close second.

A merger between the two airlines could be worth as much as $1.4 billion. It would also make the resulting airline the dominant career in the Washington, D.C., region, with 31.5 percent of the market and room to expand.
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