An ATA Obituary

It’s kind of strange writing an obituary for ATA right now. I mean, it’s like it happened in slow motion even though it actually happened very quickly. I guess technically it started a couple years ago, but things really sped up month when I posted about their decision to shed the Chicago/Midway hub. I felt like I was writing an obituary back then, and really, I was. Combine that with my brief heads up yesterday on ATA’s bankruptcy filing and the excellent comments that followed, and there’s not really much left to say, but of course, that’s not true.

When ATA brought back John Denison, former CEO of the airline and Southwest guy, I thought maybe the airline would swing back to realign more with Southwest. But when FedEx decided to drop ATA from its military flying contracts, what else could the airline do but shut down? That was such a big piece of their operation. I don’t know for sure why they were dropped from the contract, but I’d guess it’s a safe bet that ATA is no innocent bystander here.

The strange thing is that ATA is survived by World Airways and North American, both of which ATA acquired last year. Those airlines will operate as normal, and who knows what else will happen. Maybe they’ll pick up some of ATA’s planes. Will Southwest look at picking up ATA’s 737-800s and start a Hawai’i operation of their own? Who knows. If they weren’t interested in picking up a piece of Aloha, I’m not sure they’d be interested in this, but the price could be right. There’s definitely a dearth of seats going to the Islands right now, so there could be some opportunity.

08_04_04 atal10If World and North American don’t pick up ATA’s planes, that’ll mean the end of passenger carrying DC-10 and L1011 aircraft in the US. Add that to the 737-200s that disappeared from US skies with Aloha last week and really most of the fun and cool aircraft are gone. Get on those Northwest DC-9s while you still can.

As for ATA, this brings the airline to an end after almost 35 years of flying. That’s pretty good for a little charter airline (let’s just forget about that ill-fated late-90’s expansion). I know a lot of people have had really bad experiences flying ATA over the years, but my four trips with them were excellent.

Back in the late 1990s, I flew with my parents and brother on the PHX-OGG flight. Our flights were on time and the crews were friendly. My next experience was during my last days at America West; Labor Day Weekend of 2002. A few of us got together and decided we wanted to fly the L1011 one more time before it left scheduled service (the L1011s were only on charters the last 5+ years). We flew to Indianapolis and hopped the next to last scheduled L1011 flight which went to Vegas. Once again, the flight was on time, the crews were great, and we were even invited to hang around for a tour of the plane.

My last two experiences were related to each other. The first was a one way trip back in 2003 from Washington/National to San Francisco via Chicago/Midway. When I got to Midway, the flight to San Francisco was oversold and they offered me a free flight if I waited until the next day. I gladly took it, spent the night with a good friend who lived in Chicago at the time, and made it home on-time the next day. That free flight was very welcome, because I used it to fly from San Francisco to Indianapolis to be the best man in that same friend’s wedding in March of 2004. Once again, the flight were on time and the crews were great.

So, while many may have stronger and angrier feelings, I will actually miss ATA.

(Original Image from Wikimedia)

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