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$12 Airfare Lures Eastern Passengers, But Some Suffer Guilt Pangs With AM-Eastern Rdp Bjt

March 11, 1989

BOSTON (AP) _ College students, businessmen and bargain hunters piled aboard the Eastern Airlines shuttle Friday, many saying that while they felt guilty about crossing a picket line, the $12 fare - down from $99 - was too good to miss.

″I feel like a scab,″ said John Brousseau of Worcester, a wastewater treatment plant worker. ″I belong to two unions, but for the price I just bite my tongue.″

Others aboard the no-reservation link between Boston, New York and Washington said they were admirers of Frank Lorenzo, owner of Eastern parent Texas Air. The striking Machinists union and pilots supporting the strike blame Lorenzo for Eastern’s problems.

″I think the unions are wrong anyways. They’re crippling the airlines,″ said Peter Rogina, 33, of Salem, a sales manager who prefers to fly Pan Am. ″Some baggage handlers are getting paid $40 an hour to unload planes. That’s ridiculous.″

The Eastern employees staffing the planes rolled out the red carpet, extending more than the usual welcome to the first crowd of passengers since the week-old strike began. Shuttle flights earlier in the week had been mostly empty.

″I’m glad we have a good crowd even though we’re giving it away,″ the pilot joked over the intercom.

The pilot, a 26-year Eastern veteran, said $12 was the price of Eastern’s very first shuttle in 1961. The offer is good through Sunday. The airline announced it will cut regular week-day fares to $49 next week.

Early flights were less than half-filled, despite fares cheaper than a taxi to the airport in two of the nation’s costliest cities. The 8 a.m. shuttle from Boston to New York carried 140 people in a plane that holds 250.

The 10 a.m. return trip to Boston, with the same plane and crew, carried 73 passengers. Pilots on both sides of the picket lines said those numbers were roughly average for the airline before the strike.

Traffic on late-morning flights was heavier.

Eastern managers said they hoped for more passengers as word spread that the shuttles were flying despite the company’s declaration of bankruptcy Thursday.

Roger Howlett, an art dealer in Boston and New York, said the uncertainty almost kept him away. He told a flight attendant the airline would have more takers if it ran radio updates on the shuttle’s status.

″You don’t know if they’re flying or not,″ he said. ″I tried to call 50 times before I left but the line was busy.″

Pickets outside the Eastern terminal at Boston’s Logan airport urged travelers to resist the low fares and hospitality.

″It’s just another one of Frank Lorenzo’s tactics so he can say the shuttle’s full,″ said Norma Henson, a 20-year Eastern flight attendant.

3-10-89 1954EST

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