ATA's scheduled service flies to popular vacation markets and major business centers from gateways in Chicago-Midway and Indianapolis. Destinations include Cancun, Dallas, Denver, Dublin*, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, … see full wiki
ATA: Cheap, Loud, Hot, and Turbulent (Just Like Me!)
Jan 22, 2003
Pros: kind of cheap, on time, cool head-rests on some planes
Cons: no space, loud, turbulent, not that cheap
The Bottom Line: It was kind of scary and uncomfortable, but I made it home alive (knock on wood). Just kidding about that title! ;)
American Trans Airlines (ATA) is one of the most budget of all the budget airlines in the US. When my mom went to Boston's Logan Airport to pick me up, she couldn't find ATA's monitors listing flight information... because they didn't have any in Logan! They also claim that their website has up-to-date flight info, but it doesn't. The baggage carousel was not labeled either, so we had to wander around a bit to figure out where my bag was going to be spit out. However, I shouldn't really complain too much since I arrived safely on four ATA flights, without having to shell out too much dough and with my luggage intact. However, the flights were pretty unpleasant, so I do have a lot of criticisms about this airline.
I flew on ATA from Boston to Los Angeles and back, with a stop-over in Chicago both times. ATA has a hub in Chicago's Midway Airport, so no matter where you are headed, you will most likely stop over in the Windy City. Unless, of course, you are flying from LA to Hawaii, which you probably wouldn't want to do after reading this review. You see, ATA is fine for short flights like Chicago to Boston, but anything longer, and you'll be wishing you had a parachute.
For one thing, the flights were a lot more turbulent than other recent flights I've been on. On my flight from LA to Chicago, for instance, when we were descending, the plane started rocking from side to side and there was a loud rumbling noise underneath. I suspect that the pilot was having trouble making the wheels come down, but no one bothered to tell us what the turbulence was all about, so it was pretty scary. Also, I found that sitting above the wing (and engine!) made the flight very loud! The planes are 3 seats on each side of the aisle (737s and 757s).
Comfort: I am only 5'2" and I still found the seating very claustrophobic. During the flight from Chicago to LA, it wasn't so bad because it was during the afternoon and people were up and about, so I didn't have to sit in the same spot the whole time (I was seated in the middle seat). However, on my flight from LA to Chicago, it was the middle of the night and most people around me were sleeping. I was in the middle seat again, and my row didn't even have a window, so I felt even more confined. Also, the tall guy sitting next to me fell asleep almost immediately with his knees invading my legroom area. The seats are also extremely narrow, so my elbows were sore from keeping them tucked at my sides for the entire flight.
ATA made a big deal out of the fact that some of its planes are new and have leather seats, but I preferred the older planes in terms of comfort. Even without the leather seats, the planes were really hot and uncomfortable, and the non-breathable upholstery (I was on a leather-seater from LA to Chicago) made it even worse. I would advise you to dress in layers because I wouldn't be surprised if the cabin is sometimes cold, as well! The only good thing about the new planes was that they had neat head-rests with sides on them so that you wouldn't slump over onto your neighbor's shoulder. Also, the new planes have more TV screens.
ATA saves money by not serving meals on any of its flights and skimping on entertainment. They do, however, serve free soft drinks, coffee, or tea and a little bag of some type of trail mix containing unpronounceable ingredients. On the longer flights, they serve a packet of little biscuits, as well. So, if you'll be flying a long distance, be sure to bring some snacks of your own. They also sell beer, wine, and mixed drinks for $4.
The in-flight entertainment consists of short TV shows including The West Wing and Friends, plus some sports highlights and news stories. It also plays adult contemporary music videos such as Elton John, the Dixie Chicks, Vanessa Williams, and (shudder)Celine Dion. You can buy headphones for $2 that you can keep to use on future ATA flights. There are two jacks for the earphones, so if you plug in your own one-pronged head phones, you'll only hear the music in one ear. Not that you'd be missing much. Here are the channels:
5. Classical (Mozart, Mendelssohn, etc.) 6. Oldies --This one seems to be the only decent channel. (Beatles, Beach Boys, Shirelles, Cream, Dionne Warwick, Pointer Sisters, Mary Wells, etc.) 7. Sports Interviews (Roger Staubach, etc.) 8. Jazz (Bozz Scaggs, Norah Jones, etc.) 9. Music from films about the future-- I think this one changes themes periodically. (Minority Report, Bicentennial Man, etc.) 10. Music from children's movies (The Lion King, the Olson Twins, etc.) 11. Pop (Ashanti, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Avril Lavigne, etc.) 12. Latin Pop (Mark Anthony, Alejandro Sanz, etc.)
According to the in-flight magazine, which is basically an advertisement for ATA's vacation packages, full-length films are shown on flights longer than five hours.
Some of the cities ATA services include: Boston New York Philly Washington, DC Charlotte Orlando Miami San Juan Aruba Indianapolis (another hub along with Chicago) Chicago (hub) Minneapolis Denver Seattle San Francisco San Jose Los Angeles Maui Honolulu Cancun, Mexico
Check the website at www.ata.com or call 1-800-I-FLY-ATA for a more complete list of destinations and schedules.
The best part of my flying experience was seeing the sunrise over Lake Michigan. Also, landing in Boston, the pilot swung out over Boston Harbor, giving us a beautiful view of that, as well. My flight from Chicago to Boston was definitely the best of the four due to the sunrise, the view of Boston from the harbor, and the fact that I had an entire row to myself! The other three flights were all packed.
If you are flying soon, keep in mind that many airports have upgraded their security systems, and they now x-ray all baggage. This translated into chaos at LAX because the ATA people didn't bother to put up any signs explaining that you have to check in at the counter to get your bags stickered and then get in another queue to get the bags x-rays. There were just random lines of people everywhere and not nearly enough staff.
I flew ATA because it was the cheapest flight I could find from Boston to LA. I booked the tickets through cheaptickets.com. Southwest would have been cheaper, but it doesn't fly to Boston. However, ATA is not that cheap. For instance, I just searched on the website for flights from Boston to LA in May, and the cheapest I could find came out to a grand total of $346. Roundtrip Chicago-New York (La Guardia) is around $200.
For a short trip, ATA may be worth looking into, but for a longer journey, do yourself a favor and pay a bit more for the extra amenities and comfort.
For a cool European budget airline on which you get to choose where you sit (next to cute guys, of course), check out my review of RyanAir. My first hyperlink! YAY!