Before mega-carriers dominated the skies, ATA was a unique airline that flew a diverse fleet.
For a time, ATA was a top-notch, thriving airline. They did a great job of balancing fun and professionalism. ATA operated a fleet of 707s, 727-200s, 737-800s, 757s, L1011s and later DC-10s, L1011s and 757s. This video shows vintage footage of ATA during the late ’90s. The video focuses on aviation safety using ATA as the primary airline for the focus of the documentary. It highlights the intense training it took to be a crew member in the industry. The video features a now-rare L1011 ridealong from Indianapolis to Las Vegas. The documentary even shows a malfunction of the number 2 engine during start that forced a delay. The cockpit crew worked with maintenance to get it fixed.
Founded in 1963 as Ambassadair, ATA Airlines (also known as American Trans Air) was a low cost airline based in Indianapolis. Its first aircraft was a Boeing 720 known as Miss Indy. A second Boeing 720 was added in 1978. This one was named Spirit of Indiana. For decades, ATA operated scheduled passenger flights throughout the United States and most of its territories. The airline’s focus cities were Chicago, Honolulu, and Oakland. At one time, ATA was north America’s largest charter airline. It transported more troops for the U.S. Military than any other commercial airline.
For a while, ATA kept up with its competition, and grew with a modern fleet and a diverse set of revenue. ATA also had Travel City Direct as one of their biggest clients.
Then, there was a major economic upheaval in the airline industry as a result of the 9/11 attacks. Because of this, ATA suffered serious financial hardships from which it never recovered. Adding insult to the already tumultuous time, ATA services to the UK ended in 2002 when Travel City chose another airline – Air Atlanta.
Like other smaller low-cost airlines during the era, ATA continued its financial death struggle while making changes to try to survive. They attempted to code-share with Southwest Airlines, pared down their fleet, shut down routes and even closed their Indianapolis base. Nothing worked though. They shrunk themselves into further losses. On April 2nd, 2008, ATA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, after losing a major contract for its military charter business. Soon after, an ATA representative announced that the company would be discontinuing all services. While ATA was still ‘operating’ under bankruptcy protection, Southwest purchased the rights to the remaining gates at Midway Airport and operating certificate for 7.5 million.
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