ATA was established in August 1973 as American Trans Air (ATA) to provide aircraft for the Ambassadair travel club. Its first aircraft was a Boeing 720 named "Miss Indy", with a second Boeing 720 ("Spirit of Indiana") being added in 1978. ATA received its common-air carrier certificate in March 1981. Operations started as a charter carrier in 1981, with a fleet of eight Boeing 707s based in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1983, American Trans Air introduced its first DC-10, a series -10, and was followed in 1984 by another, a series -40. Amtran, Inc. was founded by owner J. George Mikelsons in 1984, as the holding company for Ambassadair, ATA, and any future subsidiaries. The airline replaced the 707s with Boeing 727-100 trijets in 1984, and added Rolls-Royce powered Lockheed L-1011s (most of which were ex-Delta Air Lines and TWA) in 1985, and Boeing 757-200s in 1989. Scheduled service flights began in 1986 between Indianapolis, Indiana (Indianapolis International Airport) and Fort Myers, Florida (Southwest Florida International Airport).
In 1990, ATA began scheduled service from New York Kennedy to Belfast continuing to Riga, Latvia using Boeing 757-200 aircraft. The founder of ATA is of Latvian ancestry. The service was unprofitable and was discontinued after a few years. ATA performed services for the United States Department of Defense and US military during the 1991 Gulf War, transporting 108,000 military personnel on 494 missions for Operation Desert Storm and yet again during Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom with the activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet ("CRAF"). During these periodic activations, ATA flight crews often and routinely spent as many as 19 hours aboard ATA aircraft in support of U.S. troops and the overall national defense missions. In February 1991, ATA won a contract for daily 727-100 shuttle operations between Nellis Air Force Base and Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. This particular contract, formerly operated by defunct Key Airlines, was awarded to ATA and ended in late 1992 when Tonopah F-117 Stealth Fighter operations ceased. The 727-100s were replaced by Boeing 727-200s in 1993.
By the mid-1990s, ATA began focusing on increasing its scheduled service (based on leisure travel) and began using the slogan, "On ATA, You're on Vacation." The airline began operating a sizable hub at Chicago Midway International Airport, and offered scheduled services throughout the United States, as well as flights to Hawaii while continuing extensive military and government contract air charter flights.
In 2000, ATA placed a large order for 39 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft and 12 Boeing 757-300 aircraft to expand its fleet for additional flights from Midway. That year, the airline also began scheduled flights to Mexico and was designated as a major carrier by the United States Department of Transportation. In June 2001, ATA received the delivery of their first new aircraft, Boeing 737-800 registered as "N301TZ". In August of that same year, the airline received the delivery of another new type of aircraft, the Boeing 757-300; whom ATA became the North American Launch customer of this particular type. ATA's first 757-300 was registered "N550TZ" and the airline also introduced a new logo on these new airplanes, replacing ATA as a "vacation airline" and putting more emphasis on ATA as a "business airline." After 2001 the 737-800 with their ETOPS capabilities became the fleet's mainstay of ATA's medium haul operations from the west coast to and from Hawaii and Mexico.
Chicago Express / ATA Connection In 2000, ATA and Chicago Express Airlines launched ATA Connection, a regional affiliate of ATA Airlines that would link regional mid-western cities with ATA's Chicago hub and Indianapolis focus city; Chicago Express was purchased for $1.9 million on June 1, 1999, and operated as a separate subsidiary. After ATA entered bankruptcy in late 2004, a decision was made to end ATA's regional airline service and terminate Chicago Express/ATA Connection resulting in the permanent layoff of its entire staff. Chicago Express' assets were auctioned off, ATA terminated turboprop service (ATA Connection), and Chicago Express ceased all operations on March 28, 2005. American Trans Air The similarity of the American Trans Air and AirTran Airways names to those of other airlines caused confusion among customers and the general public. The airline had been known informally as ATA from early in its history, and from the mid-1990s on had been advertised as such, so in 2002 the name of the holding company was changed to ATA Holdings Corp. In 2003, the name of the airline itself was changed to ATA Airlines, Inc. In 2007, ATA Holdings changed names again; this time to Global Aero Logistics, Inc., immediately after the acquisition of World Air Holdings.
First bankruptcy On October 26, 2004, ATA Holdings and its subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Eventually, shareholders of ATA Holdings stock lost all their money and received no shares. The stock, previously traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange as "ATAH", was delisted. In 2004, AirTran Airways agreed to pay $90 million for ATA's 14 gates at Chicago-Midway. Southwest made a higher bid and AirTran's deal fell apart. In December 2004, ATA entered into an agreement with Southwest Airlines to transfer six gates at Chicago Midway International Airport and 27% of non-voting stock in exchange for a cash influx and codeshare agreement. In the beginning of 2005, the airline drastically reduced flights at its Indianapolis hub to only three destinations and centered scheduled flights at Chicago Midway International Airport in order to complement Southwest Airlines codeshare flights. ATA also focused on serving markets that are business oriented and do not have Southwest service, such as San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth, and New York–LaGuardia. Additionally, ATA began offering point-to-point service not connecting to its Midway Hub, as to benefit other Southwest Airlines focus cities, such as Las Vegas, Orlando, and Phoenix, with connections to non-Southwest destinations such as Denver and Hawaii. Southwest CEO, Gary Kelly, said that revenues were up nearly 20% due to the new codesharing agreement. On March 28, 2005, ATA shut down its commuter airline service, Chicago Express/ATA Connection, and later sold the assets to a private buyer. In attempt to reduce operating costs, the airline also downsized its fleet by returning twenty Boeing 737-800 and eight Boeing 757-300 aircraft, along with numerous Boeing 757-200 aircraft. The eight 757-300 airframes were subsequently refurbished by Boeing, the lessor, and then leased to Continental Airlines. In mid-2005, ATA entered an agreement to lease three ex-United Airlines Boeing 737-300 aircraft. Three 737-300s entered service with ATA in late November 2005. Due to high lease rates, the three 737-300s were taken out of service in November 2007, and returned to their owners. In September 2005, ATA outsourced all its Heavy Maintenance Checks to overseas and domestic contractors. Also planned was an agreement with Continental Airlines to trade ATA's remaining four 757-300 aircraft for four 737-700 aircraft. In early October 2005, ATA terminated these negotiations due to the Boeing machinists strike, which would delay the delivery of the aircraft. On October 13, 2005, ATA announced major service reductions, ending flights to Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Newark. In addition, the planned addition of flights to Miami and Sarasota, Florida was cancelled. This ended Southwest codeshare service to Minneapolis and Newark. Later that year, on November 1, 2005, a second round of flight cuts were announced, including the suspension of scheduled service to Denver, San Juan, and their headquarters and former hub Indianapolis. On November 17, 2005, ATA Airlines received court approval to sell its Ambassadair Travel Club division to Grueninger Cruises and Tours. In a third round of cuts announced on December 6, 2005, ATA announced that it would discontinue service to three additional cities. ATA would suspend flights from Chicago Midway International Airport to San Francisco, Orlando, and Fort Myers in late April 2006. Following these cancellations, ATA would have only 18 daily scheduled departures from its former Chicago hub and 52 scheduled departures company-wide. Moreover, the company would be left with only 1 gate at Midway, down from its previous total of 14, surrendering the balance to Southwest or the city. On December 15, 2005, ATA announced an expansion of its code-share agreement with Southwest Airlines. ATA Airlines would expand codesharing with Southwest Airlines between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and cities in the Southwest system that connect via Chicago Midway International Airport. In January 2006, MatlinPatterson and certain pre-bankruptcy creditors invested over $100 million in ATA and took the company private, also taking over ATA Holdings, Inc. Following the transaction, on February 28, 2006, ATA Airlines emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. However, the airline was still shrinking. ATA continued to return more aircraft, including the 1,500th Boeing 737 Next Generation produced, N333TZ, which was delivered new to ATA on May 14, 2004.
Following its first emergence from Chapter 11 protection ATA made several efforts to return to profitability, but due to the rising cost of fuel and negative pressures on ticket price ATA was unable to recover and ended operations on April 2, 2008. These late efforts included:  2006 ATA commenced service between Houston's William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and New York's LaGuardia Airport (KLGA). ATA initiated new flights out of Oakland, CA, Ontario, CA and Hilo, HI on April 28, 2006. In support of its codeshare agreement with Southwest Airlines, ATA moved its operations in the greater San Francisco area from San Francisco International Airport to Oakland International Airport ATA introduced several new flights from the West Coast of the United States to and from Hawaii including the only nonstop service between Hilo, HI and the mainland United States. ATA announced they would purchase nine of Northwest Airlines remaining DC-10-30s. These aircraft were to be used on military troop charters, replacing ATA's aging L1011-500 fleet. ATA planned to enter seven of the planes into service, mothballing the remainder for parts. 2007 ATA Airlines announced that Subodh Karnik would become ATA's new President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) replacing John G. Denison, who continued as ATA's Chairman of the Board of Directors. ATA for the first time in three years added several flights to and from its Chicago (MDW) hub. ATA's parent company, ATA Holdings, announced on April 5, 2007 that it would change its name to Global Aero Logistics, Inc., in a move that, according to then-CEO Subodh Karnik, "better reflects the company's diverse, worldwide operations." That same day, Global Aero Logistics, Inc. announced an agreement to acquire World Air Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiaries, World Airways and North American Airlines, for $315 million in cash. Each airline, as stated in the official announcement, was to keep operating independently. With the acquisition of World Airways, and the holding companies organizational name change to Global Aero Logistics, it was decided 3 of the planned 9 DC-10s acquired by ATA, would be transferred directly to World Airways' operating certificate, resulting in employee layoffs at ATA. Starting in October 2007, ATA announced they would terminate service on several routes affecting, Chicago, IL Chicago Midway International Airport, Washington, D.C. (Washington National Airport), New York, NY (LaGuardia Airport), and Ontario, CA (LA/Ontario International Airport) These service cuts left ATA operating to 4 destinations from its former Chicago Hub. 2008 In March 2008, Subodh Karnik resigned as CEO, former CEO and current Chairman of the Board John G. Denison served as acting CEO until ATA's demise. No public reason was given for Karnik's departure, but the airline's financial problems coupled with the poor execution of the purchase of several DC-10s for use as military charters was rumored to have been a factor. 2010 A federal jury for the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis says FedEx must pay $66 million to now-defunct ATA Airlines, saying the package delivery company broke a contract that ultimately pushed ATA into bankruptcy. $22 million for lost profit in 2008 and $44 million for lost profit in 2009. However, in December 2011, a Federal appellate court in Chicago reversed the $66 million judgment against FedEx.
Second bankruptcy and the end of ATA
Flight crew of last ATA Airlines revenue flight, AMT4586, after completing segment from Honolulu to Phoenix. Captain Mark Groover and First Officer Philip Collier On April 2, 2008, ATA declared bankruptcy and ceased all operations. This sudden end came about due to the loss of a key contract with military charter operations. It was the third of four U.S. airlines to announce a complete shut down in the week of March 30, 2008 after Aloha Airlines did so on March 30, Minnesota-based charter Champion Air did so March 31, and Skybus Airlines terminated service on April 5. The shutdown of ATA took effect at 4:00 AM EDT, Thursday April 3, 2008, although some flights were airborne at the time and continued to their destinations, with the final arrival being ATA flight 4586 from Honolulu to Phoenix, which landed at 8:46 AM, MST, or seven hours and 46 minutes after the announced shutdown. At the time of the shutdown ATA employed around 2,300 people all of whom were permanently laid off. According to press reports, up to 10,000 passengers were affected and many of them had to scramble for help on several airlines. Most of them, however, had to pay for new tickets. As of April 10, some Computer reservations system such as Amadeus and Sabre still had valid reservations showing for ATA Flights, making the situation worse for those passengers with interlining. On November 19, 2008, Southwest Airlines announced their intent to acquire the remaining assets of ATA Airlines. The $7.5 million bid includes the rights to 14 slots at LaGuardia Airport that are currently held by ATA Airlines as well as various other assets such as trademarks, logos, etc. Southwest Airlines has specifically stated that the bid "...doesn't include any aircraft, facilities or employees of ATA