Passengers Unfazed, Employees Don't Say Much
Dec. 03, 1990
HOUSTON (AP) _ Employees were low-key and passengers seemed mostly oblivious Monday after the parent of Continental Airlines filed for protection under federal bankruptcy laws for the second time in seven years.
''I'm not worried as long as I can get home today,'' Gwendolyn Currie, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said.
Her flight to New Orleans was detoured to Houston because of bad weather and she was among the crowd waiting for Continental flights at Houston Intercontinental Airport's Terminal C, the Houston-based airline's main hub.
''I just hope to get out of here today,'' she said.
''I hope I still have a way to get back,'' said Frank Dow, who was heading to Lafayette, La., from Houston.
Some Continental employees were handed a printed message about the filing when they reported to work Monday morning and a text of the announcement was made available to others on computer monitors at passenger check-in gates.
Passenger reaction to the announcement was minimal, gate attendants said, probably because so few people knew of it. The airline company said it intended to run normally despite the Chapter 11 filing in a federal bankruptcy court in Delaware, where Continental is incorporated.
''The impact is zero,'' said one flight officer, who declined to be identified, saying employees are told to not speak with reporters. ''It's business as usual.
''Look around,'' he said, pointing to aircraft taxiing and passengers boarding. ''I don't have any anxiety.''
''This is something external, with the fuel prices,'' a flight attendant with him said. ''It's all out of our control and there's very little I can do. I think it's important the public recognizes this is an administrative action. That's what's important. If you didn't watch the news, you would never know.''
The flight officer, who said he went through the 1983 bankruptcy filing when flights were halted, employees laid off and passengers stranded, noted the chaos of that time was absent on Monday.
''It's very relaxed,'' he said. ''This was a whole different background.''
Capt. Robert Finley, a senior pilot at Continental, said he was among four top pilots to meet with airline chairman and president Hollis Harris on Thursday to discuss the situation.
''Continental Airlines is going to wind up surviving and being a leader in the industry,'' Finley said. ''Mr. Harris is a very positive, people-oriented person which is something we haven't known a lot of around Continental for awhile.
''It seems like a breath of fresh air to see a man like him in that job. If anyone can pull us through these difficult times - where fuel costs are skyrocketing and all costs are elevating at an enormous rate while the fares are still being depressed and the fare wars are going on - I think Mr. Harris is the guy who can do it.''
Finley said he was not nervous about his future.
''I went through the last one,'' he said. ''That one made me nervous. But this I feel is necessary and is a positive move to strengthen the company so we can move forward.''
''If I was an employee, I'd really be concerned,'' passenger Robert Cloud of Houston said.
Cloud was a reluctant Continental passenger and was sent to the airline on Monday by United Airlines when his United flight was canceled.
''I had heard they were having problems,'' he said while waiting to fly to San Francisco and then Bangkok. ''It's one of those hazards.''
''I can just go to another airline,'' said Archie Buchanan, flying to Phoenix. ''Filing Chapter 11 doesn't normally mean you're going to quit flying - at least for the short term.''
''I think we're too tired right now to worry,'' Beverly Zigal, of Austin, who was heading for Belize, Central America. ''Hopefully, we'll get back. It'll be interesting to see what transpires in the next few days. I hope it hits the newspapers down there but we'll be off on some remote island fishing.''
''As long as we get there, we'll probably get back,'' added her companion, Jane Bessent.
''I've been through it three times before with other carriers,'' said one Continental flight officer, who refused to provide his name but said he was based in Newark. 'You position yourself. It's a little bit of a surprise and it's kind of strange to hear this from a reporter.''