Cruise Lines, Other Airlines Adjust To Eastern’s Fall With AM-Eastern Rdp, Bjt
MIAMI (AP) _ The state Commerce Department estimated Wednesday that $8 million in tourist dollars would be lost this week in Florida because of the strike against Eastern Airlines.
The state said it based its figures on an estimate that 10 percent of air tourists who had planned to visit Florida could not get there.
Meanwhile, competing airlines increased flights, and cruise lines booked extra hotel rooms and delayed ship departures as the tourism industry made do.
The shock for travelers was lessened somewhat by the diversity of airlines passing through South Florida, a brief lull in vacations before Easter weekend and the weeks of warning about the strike for travel agents and competing airlines.
″We really haven’t felt it because there are so many airlines going in and out of Miami,″ said travel agent Barry White. ″It could be a shaking out that could make things more efficient.″
Officials at Miami International Airport are seeing daily adjustments as competitors take advantage of Eastern’s misfortune. Overall, the travel industry seemed to have adjusted to Eastern-less skies over Florida and the Caribbean.
″Continental has increased operations from 17 to 34 (flights daily). ... I know United has expanded, American has expanded positions here,″ said Dick Judy, director of Dade County’s Aviation Department, which operates Miami International Airport.
Caribbean travel is largely unaffected because most islands are served by more than one carrier or can be reached through Puerto Rico connections, Judy said.
Eastern carried about 2 million passengers a year to 15 destinations in the Caribbean.
A total of 413 passengers had Eastern tickets Saturday coming off the 1,800-passenger Norway in Miami. They were taken to a hotel while new arrangements were made.
″Some of them went to the pool and were enjoying the amenities of the hotel. They were in pretty good spirits,″ said Fran Sevcik, spokeswoman for Kloster Cruise Ltd., which operates Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Viking Line. ″Of course, getting off a seven-day cruise helps.″
But she said the strike altered the relationship between her company and Eastern, which had been one of the top three airlines carrying Norwegian cruise ship passengers in and out of Miami.
″Until all of their labor contracts are agreed upon, we would not even consider using them now,″ Ms. Sevcik said Wednesday. ″We’d cross that bridge when we came to it.″
Robert Joedicke, an airline specialist with Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc., said Eastern’s competitors are making contingency plans but won’t make long- term adjustments until Eastern’s future is decided.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, which relied on Eastern for up to 60 percent of its passengers, changed travel plans for 3,000 people, spent more than $50,000 on hotel rooms, had full crews working overnight on rebookings and were unable to accommodate only three people last weekend, said spokesman Richard Steck.
Norwegian’s Norway left port 7 1/2 hours late Saturday, but no one canceled, Ms. Sevcik said.
″It gets easier and easier,″ Steck said. ″We’re buying space into the future to replace the Eastern space, but we have the luxury of time on our side.″
Carnival Cruise Lines, the industry leader, is ″putting all our passengers, obviously, on non-Eastern flights,″ said spokesman Tim Gallagher. ″We got them all here last weekend, and we’re confident we’ll get them all here this weekend.″
Service to Latin America is more difficult to adjust because of treaty agreements, but Pan Am is competitive in several markets that Eastern served, Judy said.
″Latin America has been one of the areas where Eastern has grown tremendously in the last two years,″ said company spokeswoman Virginia Sanchez, estimating the airline carried 700,000 passengers last year.