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Insta-CoGo: ATA Airlines Goes Belly-Up

Carol Sottili

ATA stopped flying today, leaving passengers stranded. The airline served about 10,000 passengers per day, operating flights from Chicago's Midway Airport to Dallas, Oakland and the Mexican cities of Cancun and Guadalajara, and from Hawaii to Oakland, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

So what happened? The airline cited the "unexpected cancellation of a key contract for ATA's military charter business" as the reason for its sudden demise. While the airline's death came suddenly, there were some indications all was not well: In November, it stopped flights to Reagan National and in January, ceased serving New York's LaGuardia.

It's unclear whether carriers will pitch in to help out stranded passengers. Southwest, which operated codeshare service with ATA out of Chicago, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Oakland, said it would rebook passengers on a "new itinerary closest to their previous travel plans" if they purchased their ATA flights through Southwest. A spokeswoman said the airline would buy tickets on other airlines or offer refunds, but only for those who booked through Southwest. Those who are flying within next 14 days will be handled first. Southwest said it contacting each of its codeshare customers directly, and has also created a toll-free number, 800-308-5037, to answer questions about reticketing.

ATA's cessation of service comes on the heels of Aloha Airline's bankruptcy. Aloha gave one day's notice earlier this week before stopping all its flights, which operated between the islands and to the mainland. Several of the same cities, including Las Vegas and Oakland, had flights to Hawaii on both carriers. Expect higher fares to Hawaii without the two carriers, which often offered sale fares. United, a major provider of air service to Hawaii, said it would assist Aloha Airlines' passengers (the two airlines enjoyed a code-share arrangement) by offering a discounted one-way fare through the end of April "that will make it easier for them to return home."

It's been a bad week for airlines all around. United became the latest airline yesterday to cancel flights in order to conduct safety checks of its aircraft, specifically its Boeing 777s. American, Delta and Southwest have also canceled flights in recent weeks to do safety checks.

By Carol Sottili |  April 3, 2008; 1:33 PM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , Carol Sottili , Insta-CoGo
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There goes my frequent flier miles! I knew I should have used them for a free companion ticket rather than hold out for a free roundtrip ticket. Oh well. They basically stopped being relevant to me once they canceled the DCA - MDW (Chicago Midway) run. I used to take that flight 2-3 times a year to visit family.

Posted by: M Street | April 3, 2008 3:14 PM

New airlines start up -- Virgin America, Skybus -- and older airlines go under -- Aloha and ATA. I guess that's the way capitalism is supposed to work. Otherwise we would all be flying on PanAm and TWA instead of Southwest and JetBlue. I don't think ATA ever recovered from that plane crash that killed 110 people in Florida when the airline was called ValueJet.

Posted by: Tom | April 3, 2008 4:03 PM

For the record, ValuJet became AirTran, not ATA.

Posted by: Carol Sottili | April 3, 2008 4:07 PM

I know they had some low prices, but I used to loathe flying ATA. The few times I flew them had me praying hard that we weren't going to overshoot the Midway runways and hit traffic, or overshoot the National runways and sink in the Potomac.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 3, 2008 6:31 PM

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