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ValuJet name retired as airline changes images

ATLANTA, Sept. 24 -- ValuJet Airlines has changed its name to AirTran Airlines and will begin offering reserved seating and a business class while retaining low fares. Company president D. Joseph Corr says, 'We are permanently retiring the name ValuJet.

We're looking at a new airline that is completely different.' ValuJet has been in financial difficulty since a crash in south Florida's Everglades in May 1996 took 110 lives. The company unveiled its new look at an Atlanta airport news conference. ValuJet is merging with Orlando-based AirTran Airways. Effective today, the airlines began using similar names before merging completely. Passengers who pay full fare can reserve a seat. Previously, seating was first-come, first-served. Tickets for business class seats will be $25 above the full coach fare, or $40 more on multi-stop flights. AirTran Airlines vice president Ponder Harrison says, 'It is a business travel product any business can afford.' Company officials say the effort to attract business travelers doesn't mean the company is changing its low-fare pricing. Critics said the change in seating and pricing policy may be confusing to travelers and could be a mistake. Aircraft will be repainted with the letter 'A' on its aircraft tails. Corr says the logo stands for AirTran and for 'affordable.' Corr says says ValuJet has ranked No. 1 in on-time arrivals of any airline while having the lowest rate of lost baggage. Beginning next week, travel agents will be able to book the airline's flights on their computers instead of having to phone the company. ---

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