Southwest and Air Tran to join forces?

With merger and oil mania upon us, these days you can’t rule out any strange airline pairing. Just this week, Bob Fornaro, CEO of Air Tran mentioned in a conference call that they would be totally open to code-sharing and working with Southwest airlines in the future.

Does this mean that Air Tran and Southwest are up to something? As two of the largest low-cost carriers in the industry, their partnership could establish a dominant force in the domestic airline market and their complimentary routes could reinforce each other’s business. As Ray Neidl of Calyon securites is quoted in the article, “Crisis breeds strange bedfellows and the current economic malaise may be the incentive for them to do something even though they are competitive in some markets.”

Actually, from Fornaro’s verbage, it sounds like more of a cry for help than anything. I’m sure Air Tran has taken a big hit just like every other airline that has suffered in the last six months and would love a boost from Southwest’s business. Wouldn’t you want to buddy up with the only profitable carrier in the United States?

Despite Fornaro’s mewing, Southwest is being mum about the whole business and veritably shrugged off AirTran’s suggestions in this USA Today article. I suppose if you’re calling the shots you can make bedfellows with whomever you chose.