AirTran Holdings is roughly a tenth the size of its main competitor, Delta Air Lines. So AirTran executives would seem unlikely cheerleaders of a potential merger that would make Delta 60 percent larger.
But the recent $8.5 billion takeover offer for Delta by US Airways has found a fan in Joseph B. Leonard, chief executive at AirTran, which, like Delta, flies routes across the Southeast from its hub in Atlanta.
“I’m rooting for it,” Mr. Leonard said yesterday in an interview, after announcing his own proposed takeover of Midwest Air, an airline based in Oak Creek, Ill., for $290 million.
Mr. Leonard may relish his role as underdog but that is not why he hopes the carriers merge — he just wants to see fewer jets in the sky. After all, US Airways’ proposed takeover would reduce the two airlines’ combined jet fleet about 10 percent.