"They were trying to do a prepackaged restructuring, and they went from that to looking at US Airways, which was also in bankruptcy," he said. "Somewhere along the line, Doug figured out that you can use the bankruptcy court to restructure, and you'll end up with a stronger company."
In mid-2004, ATA was in trouble, the victim of a syndrome that included a series of new plane arrivals, financed with high-cost leases, just as the airline economy entered a nosedive. Once exclusively a charter carrier, ATA had grown into the country's 10th-largest airline, with a route system based at its Midway hub.
America West engaged in lengthy merger talks with ATA and offered jobs to its employees but no agreement materialized.
ATA subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection and announced an agreement with
. AirTran was to pay $87.6 million for 14 of ATA's 16 Midway gates, as well as slots at New York LaGuardia and Washington Reagan National. ATA would shift its focus back to its Indianapolis hub.
America West kept trying. In December 2004, it prepared a bid to submit to the bankruptcy court. But then it was forced to drop out of because it couldn't reach lease agreements with ATA's aircraft lessors. "We were being asked to pay more than we thought was justified," Parker said at the time.