ATA received its first 757 as early as December 1989 when it took on all four aircraft formerly with Singapore Airlines. The type proved perfect for its transatlantic charters and increasingly for its scheduled routes also. Further aircraft were added so that by 1998 9 aircraft were in the fleet with the 4 ex-SQ birds having been sold on in 1996. Further series 200s were added until N528AT in late 2000.
1998 was ATA’s 25th anniversary and, along with a 727, the new 757 N520AT received a special scheme - see below. She wore this until 2005 and stayed with ATA until their final collapse in 2008. She then joined Ethiopian as ET-AMT with whom she still serves.
In the mid 90s ATA began to build up a large scheduled network out of Chicago Midway based on leisure routes and flown by 727s and 757s. In 2000 ATA ordered 39 new 737-800s and 12 757-300s and N301TZ when delivered on June 4, 2001 was ATA’s first 737. She introduced a new livery focusing more on ATA as a business airline which was a role that its scheduled network gradually began to take on rather than leisure routes. The airline also changed its name officially to ATA Airlines in 2003.
The arrival of the 757-300s signaled the beginning of a major reduction in the Tristar fleet, which was accelerated after the 9/11 attacks. ATA's financial position gradually deteriorated and eventually in October 2004 it filed for bankruptcy protection. By then the Tristar fleet was reduced to only a pair of Tristar 1s and 5 shorter long-range Tristar 500s that had been purchased from Royal Jordanian in 1998.
In December an asset sale and codeshare agreement with Southwest saved the airline, but the Midway and Indianapolis hubs were drastically scaled back with 20 737s, 8 757-300s and many 757-200s returned to their lessors. The 757-300s eventually found themselves at Continental.
A rather muddled period followed until finally on April 2, 2008 the airline collapsed for the last time. In its last years it had sought a replacement for its Tristar 500s in the form of ex-Northwest DC-10s, however this proved problematic and the loss of contracts with the US Military was the final straw. It had attempted to survive at Midway, however with limited success. Continued service and fleet reductions also saw some small additions including 3 737-300s, albeit at very high lease rates which meant their service was short-lived. N801TZ survived until the end of the airline, after which she was leased to S7 Airlines of Russia as VP-BQD with whom she still serves.
Despite its eventual failure ATA was a beacon of hope amongst the deregulation scheduled startups and the airline had a creditable run. It had grown its operations progressively from a travel club airline to a charter airline then a leisure oriented scheduled operation before pushing into fully fledged business oriented hub territory.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: