Eastern Airlines, one day after filing for bankruptcy protection, said Friday it will resume 80 flights because more pilots and flight attendants are crossing picket lines.
Beginning Sunday and Monday, Eastern will resume its profitable service between Miami and 13 Latin American cities and restore flights linking Boston and Washington; Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico; Miami and New York's LaGuardia Airport; and LaGuardia and Montreal, said Eastern spokeswoman Karen Ceremsak in Miami.And while the airline tries to salvage part of its operation, Salt Lake employees of the beleaguered company are trying to deal with unemployment. Hundreds spent Friday applying for unemployment benefits, said Byron Davenport, chief of benefits, Utah Department of Employment Security.
About 170 filed before Thursday and between 300 and 350 showed up Thursday. More applied Friday. More than 600 workers at the local reservation center and the Salt Lake International Airport Center were put on a non-work status several days ago.
The resumption of some Eastern flights is possible because an increasing number of pilots and flight attendants are ignoring picket lines and returning to work, Eastern President Phil Bakes said in announcing the new flights on NBC's "Today" show.
The exact number of employees who will be recalled to work the restored flights has not been determined.
Eastern has been flying 62 flights a day during the strike on its Northeast shuttle linking Boston, New York and Washington, and three a week from Miami to Buenos Aires and Santiago.
"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," Bakes said.
The announcement touched off a new volley of criticism from union representatives. Spokesman for the machinists union, Wally Haber, charged that Eastern had brought 100 Continental pilots into Miami and was outfitting them with Eastern uniforms. He denied that Eastern pilots were crossing picket lines.
Machinists called for a public boycott of Eastern's sister carrier, Continental Airlines, set up pickets against Continental in Houston, and said they would oppose Eastern's reorganization plan and any sale of assets.
On the local level, some news reports said there was a question if furloughed Utah employees could collect unemployment benefits, but Davenport removed all doubt.
"As far as the department is concerned, if the Eastern employees are on a non-work status and unemployed through no fault of their own, they will receive benefits. By definition, unemployed is a person who is earning less than their average weekly amount and working less than full-time," he said.
Davenport said he expects the average unemployment payment to be about $146 per week. He calculated the cost at $350,000 based on 600 people receiving benefits for four weeks.
Robert Burquist, director of Eastern's regional reservation center in Salt Lake City, said Continental officials were in town Friday to interview the Eastern employees for temporary jobs in Denver.
The uncertain nature of the strike left a lot of Salt Lakers confused. One of the people applying for unemployment benefits and listening the details of the Continental job was Monique Mackay, who worked in the vacation planning department for Eastern.
Mackay won't know if she will go to Denver until she gets all of the details. "It's pretty hard giving up your apartment if it's only going to be temporary."
The bankruptcy action by the nation's seventh-largest airline, announced Thursday on the sixth day of a punishing strike by Machinists union over Eastern's demands for concessions, was the fifth biggest Chapter 11 filing in history in terms of company assets.
The first Eastern Airlines shuttle to leave Boston for New York and Washington on Friday with a new $12 one-way fare in effect had 92 people on board, said a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan International Airport.