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People Express Employees Face End of an Airline

January 14, 1987

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ With People Express about to fold its wings, some employees of the airline say they’ll remember the good times during the past six years, while others feel it’s time to move on.

″I won’t ever regret taking this job,″ said Mary Beth Buchanan, who joined the company in its early years as an upstart airline that offered low fares without frills.

Most of the employees interviewed Tuesday at People’s Newark International Airport headquarters were wistful and resigned to the company’s fate. A day earlier, new owner Texas Air announced that People Express would be merged into its Continental Air.

″You look out of the door and see Continental all over the place,″ said Jamie S. Akers, a People Express customer service manager. ″It’s like leaving something behind.″

Texas Air, which completed the purchase last month, said it will repaint People Express planes with Continental’s red and gold colors, put employees in Continental uniforms and erase the People Express name by Feb. 1.

Nine planes have been repainted, and the company is converting three a day, said Patty Maier, a People Express supervisor.

The employees say the biggest change will be leaving a rotating job system for fixed positions under Texas Air’s more traditional personnel structure.

Because of that, many are looking for new jobs, though most of the workers interviewed said they were 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.

Under People Express’ unorthodox labor structure, employees rotate from job to job, working for a time as a flight attendant and then perhaps behind a counter or in the operations room.

Employees now have a choice of staying on the ground or flying as cabin attendants, said Ms. Akers, 24, a 2 1/2 -year veteran of the airline. ″Everybody’s looking around,″ she said.

Some critics have said the multiple job system contributed to People Express’ problems as the airline expanded rapidly. But several workers said they found that way of working hard to leave behind.

″None of us came here to be (just) flight attendants,″ said Ms. Maier, 26. ″I’m sure I’ll find it boring after a while, just doing the same thing.″

Ms. Maier and fellow employee Beth Monroe said switching jobs and owning company stock kept workers’ enthusiasm high. The two, who also joined the airline in its first years, said Texas Air would be losing a valuable asset if large numbers leave.

″At People Express, we tried our hardest,″ said Ms. Monroe, 26. ″We cared about people.″

The said they found particular joy in serving passengers who might have been too poor to fly were it not for People’s discounted fares.

″We’ve all had good experiences here. I met my husband here,″ said Ms. Monroe.

A more recent hire, 23-year-old John DeRogatis, appeared unfazed by the changes.

″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.″

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