The History of American Trans Air

Indianapolis-based American Trans Air, already an arising carrier, always searched for an identity.

Established in 1973 as an aircraft provider for the Ambassadair Biking Club, it inaugurated account with a individual Boeing 720 dubbed “Miss Indy,” acceleration its agile 5 years after with a second, “Spirit of Indiana.” But its March 1981 arising of common-carrier acceptance enabled it to accomplish in its own right.

Retaining its Indianapolis roots, it acquired anytime beyond aircraft, including eight 707s; its aboriginal widebody, a above Laker Airways DC-10-10 registered N183AT in 1983; and an ex-Northwest Orient DC-10-40, itself address allotment N184AT. The quad-engine 707s were eventually replaced by added ammunition able 727-100 tri-jets.

Annual commuter totals climbed: 96,426 in 1981, 269,086 in 1982, and 618,532 in 1983.

Relying aloft Northwest for added DC-10 acquisitions, but affected to acting the commensurable TriStar if it adopted to absorb its aircraft, American Trans Air purchased its aboriginal in 1985, ultimately operating 15 L-1011-1s, one -100, and four -500s.

It affected a new operational contour if it inaugurated bound appointed account on the JFK-Belfast-Riga (Latvia), Indianapolis-Fort Myers, Indianapolis-Las Vegas, and San Francisco-Kahului (Maui)-Honolulu routes, announcement itself both as “American’s vacation airline” and “The nation’s better allotment airline.”

“We actualize the comfort. You actualize the excitement,” it advertised. “At American Trans Air, we apperceive the alone action you wish on a vacation is the action you create. That’s why you can calculation on American Trans Air’s courteous, able staff, top flight aircraft, customer acquainted prices, and all the little account that accept become appropriate of our growing company.”

Growing it was. Gluttonous to abstain appointed airline competition, it had become the United States’ better allotment operator, advertence up to 90 percent of its acquirement to both the civilian and aggressive accommodation of this sector, with the butt from appointed operations, wet leasing, third affair pilot training, and arrangement maintenance.

Operating a 23-strong agile by 1992-including seven 727-100s, 12 L-1011-1s, and four 757-200s-it was assisting for 18 of its 19-year history, announcement a $2 actor accident the antecedent year for the aboriginal time because of the recession and the biking agitation created by the Gulf War. It transported 2.4 actor cartage that year.

It was that actual Gulf War, however, which served as the cornerstone of its aggressive operations, aback its aircraft counted as allotment of the Civilian Air Patrol fleet. Carrying 108,000 troops on 494 missions in abutment of Operation Desert Storm, it was aswell active in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and provided 727-100 shuttle flights amid Nellis Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Stretched -200s replaced the -100s in 1993.

American Trans Air already afresh adopted a new angel if it adherent a cogent allocation of its aircraft assets to appointed operations from a Chicago-Midway hub, in accession to continuing its aggressive and government arrangement flights.

To facilitate its advised advance and improve its fleet, it ordered 39 737-800s and 12 757-200s in 2000, demography supply of the aboriginal of the above (N301TZ) in June of the afterward year and the aboriginal of the closing (N550TZ) two months later, introducing a accouter change in the action to accent its new scheduled-airline, business-oriented avenue system, now branded “ATA Airlines.”

Equally gluttonous augment from baby and accessory cities with added acceptable turboprop bounded equipment, it purchased absolute Chicago Express for $1.9 actor in 1999 and operated it as a abstracted “ATA Connection” subsidiary.

Its latest, elevated-image strategy, however, accepted unprofitable, banishment it to book for Chapter 11 defalcation aegis 5 years later, on October 26, 2004. The best adjustment of befitting it alive, it decided, was to apply its assets for the account of a advantageous carrier, which, in this case, was deregulation-synonymous Southwest Airlines.

Transferring six of its Midway Airport gates and 27 percent of its nonvoting banal to Southwest in barter for a life-injecting banknote beverage and connected operation beneath a cipher allotment acceding in December of 2004, ATA bargain its amount of Indianapolis-served destinations to three and redeployed aircraft to Chicago, now bold a business airline contour by aerial to cities that Southwest did not, including New York-La Guardia, Dallas/Fort Worth, and San Francisco. Midway-bypassing casework aswell enabled it to hotlink Southwest focus cities, such as Orlando, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, with added voids in its avenue system, Denver and Honolulu a part of them.

The action resulted in a 20-percent acquirement access for Southwest, but did not necessarily abutment ATA’s banking bleed.

To added abate costs, it decidedly pruned its fleet, affairs 20 737-800s and eight 757-300s and alone hardly active its accommodation gap with the two-year lease, amid November of 2005 and November of 2007, of three above United Airlines 737-300s. Even the charter rates, in the event, accepted too high.

Coincident account reductions, not surprisingly, were extensive, as the lights dimmed on abundant destinations over a abbreviate interval: Boston, Newark, and Minneapolis in October of 2005, Indianapolis and Denver in November, and Orlando, Fort Myers, and San Francisco the afterward April, abrogation little added than the skeleton of its already absolutely fleshed body. Indeed, 18 circadian departures were accomplished anatomy a individual aboideau at Midway Airport and alone 52 were offered arrangement wide. A antecedent cloister approval had enabled it to advertise its Ambassadair Biking Club analysis to Grueninger Cruises and Tours.

Although a $100 actor banking amalgamation anatomy the MatlinPatterson investment close and pre-bankruptcy creditors enabled the now-privatized carrier to briefly appear from defalcation and authorize account to New York-La Guardia, Houston-Hobby, Ontario, Oakland, and Hilo (Hawaii), ascent ammunition prices, the accelerated abandonment of a shortly-serving CEO, the ailing accomplished backup plan of its L-1011s with DC-10s, and the accident of a above aggressive arrangement acquired it to circling aback into bankruptcy, abrogation Flight 4586 from Honolulu to Phoenix to mark its endure landing at 0846 on August 2, 2008.