Airline founded by Latvian immigrant shuts down

Thirty-five years after its founding by Latvian immigrant Juris George Miķelsons, the U.S. carrier ATA Airlines has filed bankruptcy and suspended operations—leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at airports.

In an April 3 press release, the company blamed cancellation of a U.S. military charter contract for forcing it into bankruptcy. ATA customers should seek alternative arrangements for travel, the company said.

“We deeply regret the disruption and hardship caused by the sudden shutdown of ATA, an outcome we and our employees had worked very hard and made many sacrifices to avoid,” CEO Doug Yakola said in a prepared statement.

This is the second time the Indianapolis, Ind.-based carrier has entered bankruptcy.

Miķelsons founded ATA in 1973. The airline initially was operated as a private travel club, but in 1986 began flying general passengers as well, eventually becoming the 10th largest passenger airline in the United States. In 1990, ATA introduced a short-lived service from Kennedy Airport in New York to the international airport at Rīga.

Miķelsons first retired from the company in 1998, but came out of retirement to help lead the company through its restructuring after it went bankrupt in 2004. He retired again in 2005.

New York investment firm Matlin Patterson bought ATA in 2006 and made it part of the holding company Global Aero Logistics. The airline finished 2007 with a loss of USD 75 million, according to documents filed April 2 in U.S. Bankrupcty Court in Indianapolis. About 2,300 ATA employees are affected by the airline’s closure.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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