Flying Up the East Coast Without Eastern: Some Delay, But No Big Deal With PM-Eastern Rdp, Bjt
NEW YORK (AP) _ For patrons of the heavily traveled Atlantic Coast air routes, a by-the- book pilot job action to support Eastern Airlines strikers had little effect, but that didn’t stop people from talking and griping about it.
The travails of the airline industry seemed to be on many passenger minds Tuesday, the first day of the job action by the Air Line Pilots Association in response to what the union called safety concerns raised by the Eastern strike.
If a Miami-Atlanta-Washington-New York itinerary was any indication, there were delays of up to an hour for reasons that ranged from bad weather to luggage-loading, runway deicing and overbooking. That could be any typical flying day during the winter on one of the nation’s most congested air routes.
But when a nearly full Delta Air Lines flight from Miami to Atlanta was waylaid for what the cockpit crew called a cargo delay, many passengers immediately suspected the pilots were behind it and weren’t pleased.
″I think it’s in poor taste. Nobody wins,″ said Melton Johnston, a merchant marine captain en route to Bermuda. Another passenger, Franco Lizenzi, a Miami engineer, said, ″I think they’re doing it more out of sympathy.″
At a layover in Atlanta’s sprawling Hartsfield International Airport, Eastern counters were eerily empty, their erstwhile patrons swarming to alternate flights on Delta, the region’s dominant airline.
Eastern pickets walked peacefully, saying they weren’t surprised at their employer’s decision to ground most flights in response to the refusal by pilots and flight attendants to honor a strike by the Machinists union.
″Finally, the company was truthful with the American flying public,″ said Vince Garland, a 10(-year Eastern pilot. He said the pilot slowdown ″demonstrated that ALPA is united in our support of the Machinists’ position.″
Later, on a fully booked Atlanta-Washington Delta flight, the plane was delayed half an hour at the terminal because of what agents called a delay at Washington’s National Airport for runway deicing.
Shortly before the plane began its descent, the cockpit crew informed passengers the plane would have to circle because of an unspecified air traffic problem at National.
″We really can’t adequately explain the delay,″ the flight captain said. That riled some business passengers already miffed about the earlier stall.
″The pilots are antagonizing the public,″ said a company executive, who spoke with a reporter but didn’t want to be quoted by name. ″They’re making me upset right now and that’s stupid.″