`A disaster' for travelers // Planes fly, but without passengers
Paul Dean, 38, of
But his luggage did.
It left on a jet that was empty of fliers because American Airlines didn't have
flight attendants to fly with it.
"This is a disaster," Dean said, as he watched the jet push back from the gate at
Dean wasn't the only one to watch American's "ghost" flights leave Thursday. A
strike by 21,000 flight attendants shut down much of American Airlines, the
weekend. Neither side says it will back down, and airline watchers say the strike
may last that long.
By the end of the strike's first day, American had flown only a portion of its
domestic and international flights. Many flights left empty of fliers, as American
tried to keep cargo moving. Without fight attendants, it couldn't allow fliers on
board. American wouldn't say how many flights were canceled, but "obviously,
the strike had a big impact," said American's Andrea Rader.
In airports across
only to be told just minutes before departure that their flight had been canceled.
Fliers got out on other airlines - but not before more waiting.
Today may go smoother, but don't bet on it. American ticketholders Thursday
jammed ticket counters and travel agencies to rebook flights. Many seats are
At All Aboard Travel Agency in Dallas, fliers even rebooked Christmas flights.
If the strike lasts through Thanksgiving, seats on other airlines will be scarce.
"There just may not be enough," said Thomas Nulty, of Associated Travel
American began interviewing replacements Thursday, and said it'll have more
temporary workers in place today. Other carriers, where they can, are adding
flights or substituting bigger jets to take up the slack. Delta is even advertising its
"commitment" to get American fliers where they need to go. The strike doesn't
affect American's commuter line, American Eagle. Around the country:
those were later canceled. "It's been chaos," said Lawrence Merin, 42. He was
on an American flight to
agency told him to go to the airport and take "potluck." It took him five hours to
get on another airline.
airlines were swamped. By , there were no empty seats on their flights to
Dallas/Ft. Worth. At American's busiest airport, 142 flights out of 158 were
listed as delayed as of So few jets took off that when one did, passengers
Joyce Ziska was flying from
terminal without us."
American said late
Thursday that 60% of its flights out of
was a lot of confusion," said airport spokesman Ron Wilson.
to and from
of Triple A Travel Agency in
some flights and then made them get off because there was no crew.
Jo Ann Schmidt was supposed to fly from
mother's wedding on Saturday. She was diverted to
hours, she still didn't know whether she'd get there. "This is nerve-racking. We
have no Plan B," she said.
departed as scheduled by Fliers wandered around looking for anyone
who worked for American. American didn't cancel flights until minutes before
they were supposed to leave. Ticketholders didn't have time to catch flights on
"I'm really mad," said Deborah Nixon, 27. She was supposed to leave at
to be at her firm's annual meeting in
Even American officials were stuck. American's labor negotiators spent
spotted Thursday morning at a Southwest Airlines ticket counter.
Without a quick settlement, the strike is likely to cost American hundreds of
millions of dollars. Six days after its strike in March 1989, struggling Eastern
filed for bankruptcy reorganization and shut down almost two years later. A
USAir strike last year lasted five days. It was the shortest strike at a major airline
Fliers and travel
agents are preparing. At Carlson Travel in
agents have rebooked American fliers for weeks to come. FPT Travel in
all kinds of Cain," said David Brown of All Aboard Travel.
The stakes are high for American, too.
American's parent, AMR, has lost $1.2 billion since 1990. It's under increasing
pressure from low-cost airlines, like Southwest. Low-cost airlines have less than
10% of the
American CEO Robert Crandall says the carrier cannot compete because of its
high labor costs. Instead of expanding American, he's shrinking it. By the end of
1994, AMR will eliminate 5,000 jobs, or 5% of its workforce.
American's attendants know AMR has lost money. But now AMR is poised for a
turnaround: It's expected to make $192 million this year and $598 million next
In 1983, the attendants agreed to a two-tier wage scale that meant new hires took
pay cuts of 30% to 40%. "We've given and given and given," said attendant
Contributing: Sally Deneen, Kevin Johnson, Jonathan T. Lovitt , Tim Martin,
Ken Turetzky and Rhonda Richards