Airline closures leave Oklahomans jobless

Tuesday, April 8th 2008, 10:38 pm
By: News 9

By Mary Joseph, NEWS 9

In the last week, three airline carriers have called it quits.

ATA, Aloha Airlines and Skybus stopped flying because of financial troubles.

The financial hit to one of the airlines has a trickling effect to the pilots based in Oklahoma City.

Two former ATA pilots said they were stunned to learn of the airlines decision.  They said there was talk about the company becoming a charter airline, but no indication the airline would ground all their planes permanently.

"The company kept sending out feel good letters and feel good emails saying ‘we are going to work through this,' and ‘we are chugging right along,' and ‘we are doing our best,'" former Pilot Brad Delker said.

Delker said the company's tone changed when they sent an e-mail April 3 that announced the airline was folding, leaving Delker and 2,200 other employees without jobs.

Former Pilot Ken Morefield said he was shocked to learn he had lost his job and now he's worried about his health insurance and retirement.

"All flight operations, all benefits, everything - gone. That's it, have a nice day," Morefield said.

ATA released a statement saying: "Following the loss of a key contract for our military charter business, it became impossible for ATA to continue operations. Unfortunately, we were not in a position to provide our customers or others with advance notice."

The airline had about 50 flights per day, mostly between Hawaii and west coast cities. 

Another airline, Champion Air announced last week it will cease operations on May 31 due to increasing fuel costs and a struggling economy.