Labor rallies boosted the spirits of striking Eastern Airlines workers Saturday while the struggling carrier attracted travelers "like gangbusters" to its bargain Northeast shuttle and worked to restore routes.
Aircraft were again reported flying near capacity on the second day of $12 fares on the Northeast shuttle linking New York with Washington and Boston, once Eastern's most profitable service. The pre-strike fare was $99."The shuttle's going like gangbusters," said Eastern spokesman Robin Matell. "This ($12 fare) has just created a tremendous groundswell of interest in traveling between the cities."
Joe Scott, an Eastern spokesman in New York, said the shuttle remained popular Saturday, but ticket lines at LaGuardia Airport were not as long as they were Friday.
Many flights were crowded with college students heading home for spring break. Because the hourly shuttle works on a first-come, first-serve basis, many passengers waited for hours before getting on a flight.
Matell suggested the solidarity of pilots honoring Machinists Union picket lines might be cracking. "We have more than 200 pilots now, and yesterday we had inquiries from about 300 pilots inquiring about procedures for returning to work," he said.
But Air Line Pilots Association spokesman Jim Bost, an Eastern pilot for four years, discounted that report, saying: "So far they are still hanging tight with us. As far as we can tell the line is still holding solid."
Machinists leader Frank Ortis said the pickets' resolve was unwavering, despite urgings from Eastern to return to work.
"Management is calling people to go to work, saying it's all over," Ortis said. "This is company rhetoric, and we're telling members disregard that - we're still on strike."
Meanwhile, corporate shuffling by Eastern parent Texas Air Corp. continued as Eastern Express, a non-union commuter carrier that fed Eastern flights, was renamed Continental Express. Non-union Continental Airlines, another Texas Air company, has picked up some Eastern routes since the strike began March 4.
Picketing continued at airports in Miami, New York, Washington and other cities.