Eastern pilots say they won't return to the cockpit to fly for a stripped-down, East Coast-based airline.
Bruce Quigley, an Eastern pilot who lives in Sandy, said the breakdown of the proposed sale of the country's seventh-largest airline for $464 million can all be blamed on Frank Lorenzo."It was not the unions that walked out and kiboshed this," Quigley said. "The reason that everything was called off was because of one man, Frank Lorenzo. He walked out of the place."
Quigley termed Lorenzo a psychopath in a $500 suit.
After sale talks broke down, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland, who is overseeing the airline's bankruptcy reorganization, ordered both sides to return to court Monday. The union believes Lorenzo will have to show just cause why all the company's assets shouldn't be sold or agree to the sale. Speculation about other possible buyers is expected to surface through the weekend.
The snag to the sale was the unions' demand for a court-appointed trustee to run Eastern during the restructuring phase. Quigley said union officials believe Lor-enzo wouldn't agree because he doesn't want to give up control, as he intends to continuing siphoning Eastern's assets to his other companies, Texas Air and Continental.
"The bottom line is: the pilots are not going to come back to a smaller airline," the pilot said. "We want the airline like it was (when Lorenzo bought it)."
After the proposed buy-out fell through earlier this week, Eastern President Phil Bakes announced that the airline's parent company, Texas Air Corp., would rebuild Eastern.
But Quigley said company officials know a smaller airline won't realize enough profits to pay off its creditors. "They all know they can't run a smaller airline and pay off the debt."
Industry analyst Louis Marckesano, an airline analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott Inc. in Philadelphia, concurred, saying that a smaller Eastern wouldn't be a profitable venture. "I don't think in this industry you shrink your way back to profitability. I think that is a subterfuge for dismantling (Eastern)."
The company's three unions had all agreed to concessions asked by the investor group led by former baseball commissioner Peter V. Ueberroth.
"All the pressure is not on the unions now. All the pressure is on Frank Lorenzo," Quigley said. "One man went to three unions, and in less than 72 hours, got everything he wanted."
The International Association of Machinists struck Eastern March 4. The Air Lines Pilots Association and United Transport Workers refused to cross the picket lines, forcing the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 9.
Also in limbo is the status of the 650 non-union employees at the Salt Lake Eastern Reservation Center, who have been on "no-work" status since March 7.
Quigley said the 3,600 pilots in his union plan to stay off the job at least until the middle of next week. "We have got to make Lorenzo toe the line and sign on the dotted line, so we can get on with our lives," he said.
And even if a sale is completed, Quigley said, it will take at least six months until the airline is near full strength again.