People Express Employees Face The End
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ People Express employees Tuesday began bidding wistful goodbyes to the logos and uniforms that have symbolized the upstart carrier’s six years of growth.
People Express Airlines Inc.’s new owner, Texas Air Corp., announced Monday it will finish melding the few-frills airline into sister subsidiary Continental Air on Feb. 1.
The employees say the biggest change will be leaving their multitask jobs for fixed positions under Texas Air’s more traditional personnel structure.
Many are looking for new jobs, but in interviews at the People Express hub at Newark International Airport, most of the workers said they are happy about the merger if only because it saves their paychecks for now.
People Express had said it faced bankruptcy if the Texas Air buyout did not go through. The sale was completed last month and Texas Air announced Monday that it will repaint People Express planes with Continental’s red and gold colors, dress employees in Continental’s uniforms, and erase the People Express name.
″It’s tough to see that happen,″ said Jamie S. Akers, a People Express customer service manager. ″I saw my first Continental plane today.
″Reality hits. It’s like leaving something behind,″ said Ms. Akers, who has been with the company for 2 1/2 years.
Nine planes have been repainted, and the company is converting three each day, she said.
A more recent hire, John DeRogatis, was unfazed.
″We’re changing our ties. That’s about it,″ said DeRogatis, who joined the company six months ago. Besides, he said, ″I like the Continental logo better.″
Under People Express’ unorthodox labor structure, employees rotated from job to job, working for a time as a flight attendant and then perhaps behind a counter or in the operations room.
Some critics said the system contributed to People Express’ problems as the airline expanded rapidly. But several workers said they find it tough to leave that behind.
″None of us came here to be (just) flight attendants,″ said Patty Maier. ″I’m sure I’ll find it boring after a while, just doing the same thing.″
″The reason we came here was not to be ticket agents, but to get to do a lot of things,″ added her companion, Beth Monroe.
″Most people are looking for jos, to be honest with you,″ Ms. Maier said.
The rotating job system and employee stock ownership kept the enthusiasm of workers high, they said. If large numbers leave, Texas Air will be losing a valuable asset.
″At People Express, we tried our hardest,″ said Ms. Monroe. ″We cared about people, but the company didn’t have anything to offer.″
Despite some bitterness about the sale and salary cuts, memories of the good times during the six years in which People Express revolutionized air travel are stronger, employees said.
″I don’t ever regret taking this job,″ said Mary Beth Buchanan, who sat at lunch with Ms. Maier and Ms. Monroe.
A particular joy, they said, was serving people who might have been too poor to fly were it not for the lower People Express fares. Financial analysts expect fares to rise over the long term because of the merger.
″We’ve all had good experiences here. I met my husband here,″ said Ms. Monroe.
″It just seemed like it was such a nice company. It was just too good to be true,″ she said.