Employees, Passengers Surprised By Overnight Announcement
Four days... three airline shutdowns. Early Thursday morning,
ATA Airlines suddenly announced it is shutting its doors, and
abruptly cancelled all current and future scheduled flights.
The news came as a surprise to passengers and employees alike,
reports CBS-2 in Chicago. Both groups were told of the decision
only after showing up at the airport Thursday morning.
"We drove here from Indianapolis to get a flight to go to
Hawaii, and my son and his buddy are on spring break, and we're
just like in shock. We had no idea," said ATA passenger Donna
Fregeau at Chicago Midway. "I tried to call them yesterday just to
check in, and I was on the phone for a like an hour and no one ever
picked up, so I finally just hung up and tried again last night,
and couldn't get through. So we just came here this morning and
just found out."
The airline shut down all operations at 0300 CDT Thursday, less
than a day after filing for bankruptcy.
A flier posted on the ticket counter was the only explanation
disgruntled passengers at Midway received; over 2,200 ATA employees
nationwide received even less notice.
As ANN reported, ATA
announced in March it would shut down operations at Midway as of
April 14th, citing high fuel prices. The airline said at the time
it planned to continue scheduled service to Hawaii from four other
airports on the mainland, but warned those routes could end, too,
if fuel prices continued to climb.
ATA officials planned to keep the airline alive with charter
contracts... but it appeared that window was closing, as well,
after a lucrative military transport contract was cancelled
Wednesday, spurring the bankruptcy filing.
Southwest Airlines, which maintained a codeshare agreement with
ATA, stepped in Thursday to offer passengers who booked flights on
ATA through the Dallas-based LCC with any help it could, through
rebookings or offering refunds.
"Southwest's immediate focus is those Customers who are
scheduled to travel within the next 14 days," the carrier said
Thursday. "Customers with travel scheduled more than 14 days from
now also will be contacted and rebooked on alternative flights or
offered refunds; Southwest must, however, give immediate priority
to those Customers whose scheduled travel dates are most
ATA posted on its website a list of carriers flying to
destinations once served by ATA, in a half-hearted effort to guide
passengers in rebooking their flights. The carrier failed to offer
any additional help, however, and it's not known whether any other
airlines will honor ATA tickets.