American Trans Air or ATA Airlines was founded in August 1973 to provide air services for the Ambassador Travel Club. They started operations using the Boeing 720 and from 1981 changed their name, commencing charter flights based out of Minneapolis.
At one point the company was the largest charter airline in the United States, operating aircraft such as the Boeing 757 and the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. Scheduled services began in 1986 between Indianapolis, Indiana and Fort Myers, Florida with the Boeing 727.
American Trans Air Video
Following on from the last video about Midwest Express Airlines, this time we stay in the USA for a look at ATA Airlines. This video runs for just over 13 minutes and gives a decent overview of the airline.
Everything is covered, from its beginnings as the Ambassador Travel Club through to the end. The founder, J George Mikelsons, was able to start the airline in the 1970s as it was for a private club. He purchased the first aircraft, flew it and ran the airline.
Widebody aircraft arrived from 1983, with the addition of the Douglas DC-10. Charter services at the time were all over the world, including across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom.
Eventually they became a popular scheduled vacation airline in the 1990s, somewhere between a low fares and a scheduled airline. While all economy class, they had free meals, baggage, music and movies, with a large hub operation at Chicago Midway. ATA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004, came through the process and finally went bankrupt and ceased operations on 2 April 2008.
American Trans Air was an interesting airline, with a very colourful and distinctive livery. Unfortunately, the big decline really began after 11 September 2001 and it never really properly recovered. In the end, Southwest Airlines purchased what was left of the airline’s assets.
Did you ever fly with ATA Airlines? What were they like? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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Featured image by Konstantin von Wedelstaedt on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.
I remember the livery was ugly. I could easily fly other airlines than on ATA so I did that and never flew ATA. I do remember a new route of New York (JFK) to Belfast to Riga, Latvia, which was a strange route. I believe the CEO was Latvian.
Yeah their original livery wasn’t anything great, but I liked the colourful one. Interesting about the CEO!
I would frequently fly ATA between Boston and Chicago Midway for work – nothing fancy but generally they were reliable, had comfortable seating on their 757’s and 737’s, and rarely did you find a cabin crew that were not top notch.. Their frequent flyer program was also decent – flew a few connections between Boston and Vegas using points. I was disappointed when they ceased flying.
Thanks for that, it’s really nice to hear from someone who flew the airline frequently, as I never had the opportunity to fly them myself. Sounds like they were alright!
They’ll be familiar to a set of budget minded Brits! They flew charters from UK airports to Orlando Sanford on the L1011s which required a refuelling stop in Gander. We did it just before 9-11. I was only young so I don’t remember much but I remember the crews were very friendly and the entertainment was the stethoscope air tube type which seemed very old fashioned vs our usual holiday carrier Monarch Airlines. We had an ice cream in Canada and got our passports stamped !
I remember those old stethoscope headphones! Never used them but some friend of my Dad’s brought me a pair once off a flight as I was mad into anything involving aviation, even as a kid. Nice you got to go on the L1011 too! Very jealous.