Eastern Airlines fought back against a crippling strike Friday by packing its Northeast Shuttle with passengers at $12 a head and announcing restoration of 80 flights a day, mostly Latin American and top domestic routes.
But thousands of angry and confused Eastern ticket holders trying to get refunds or fly on other carriers learned they would have to pay more or put in their claims in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. (See story on A1.)A judge in New York extended his order barring commuter railroad workers from honoring any picket lines thrown up by Eastern's striking Machinists union.
"We are going to rebuild this airline in prudent, sensible increments and get our men and women back to work so they can support their families," Eastern President Phil Bakes said Friday. "This is the beginning of a new smaller, restructured and viable Eastern Airlines."
Eastern said the more than 140 daily flights, including 62 shuttle flights connecting Boston, New York and Washington, would be operated with picket line-crossing employees who have been with the company since before the start of the strike Saturday over Eastern's demand for contract concessions.
But strikers charged the crews on the restored flights beginning Sunday and Monday will be from Eastern's sister carrier, Continental Airlines, and vowed to extend pickets to that airline, treating parent Texas Air Corp. as a single company.
More than 300 workers from around New Jersey rallied Friday in support of the Eastern machinists, offering them money and help walking picket lines.
"I have never seen this kind of solidarity," said Matthew Adams, AFL-CIO regional representative from Washington, D.C.
From the rally, workers went to Newark International Airport for a demonstration outside the terminal used by Continental. Police estimated 350-400 people rallied at the airport.
Most of Eastern's pilots and flight attendants honored the Machinists' picket lines and the airline's pre-strike schedule of 1,050 flights a day had fallen to 62 flights a day on its Northeast shuttle and three a week to Latin America.
That pushed the nation's seventh-largest carrier to file for financial reorganization Thursday in the fifth-biggest Chapter 11 filing in terms of company assets. The strike is costing Eastern about $4 million a day.
Eastern management listed more than $4.5 billion in net assets, $3.39 billion in liabilities and 15,696 creditors.
In Washington, presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater was asked if there was any chance President Bush might change his mind on intervening in the Eastern strike. "He's not rethinking it," Fitzwater said.
Frank Borman, the former astronaut who once headed Eastern, blamed the strike and the airline's decision to file for Chapter 11 on Charles Bryan, head of the International Association of Machinists.
Borman said Thursday in Las Cruces, N.M., where he lives, that Eastern had good relations with the union before Bryan's 1980 election.
"We had the biggest profit-sharing program in the industry," Borman said, adding that Bryan terminated that program when he was elected.
The first Eastern shuttle to leave Boston for New York and Washington with the $12 one-way fare Friday had 92 people aboard, said a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan International Airport. Phil Orlandella said previous shuttle flights during the strike carried as few as seven passengers.
About 3,200 Eastern workers have filed for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits at a temporary office set up in Miami, and another office is being set up strictly for job placement.
"My offices are really, really strained," said Marianne Salazar, employment and training regional manager for the Florida state Labor Department.