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Strikers Protest American Express List Of Airline Priorities

April 7, 1989

MIAMI (AP) _ About 300 striking Eastern Airlines workers and their supporters rallied outside an American Express Co. travel office Thursday to protest an internal memo naming Continental Airlines a preferred carrier.

The memo obtained by the striking Machinists union asks Atlanta-area travel agents to follow a priority list of carriers when booking customers who give no preference.

The March 22 letter from American Express’ Membership Travel Service in Atlanta ends by saying, ″Please keep this information confidential and do not discuss with anyone outside of our organization.″

For domestic service, the memo says its ″highly preferred″ domestic carriers, in order, are American, USAir-Piedmont, Eastern’s sister carrier Continental and Delta airlines.

For Pacific routes, Northwest, Continental, JAL, United and Qantas airlines are preferred.

TWA and Singapore Airlines are specifically excluded from all lists.

″A lot of our people carry American Express cards, and they’re appalled that American Express is aligning itself with Frank Lorenzo,″ chairman of Eastern parent Texas Air Corp., said Russ McGarry, a Machinists vice president. ″It’s really hard to understand.″

American Express books with Continental because of the airline’s special offers, said company spokesman Nancy Muller in New York.

″Like most other travel agencies, we have some special relationships with a number of airlines so we can get even better service,″ such as access to better seats and fares, she said.

Chuck Groves, manager of the picketed travel office, said the Atlanta memo did not govern operations in his office, and he followed no priority list for booking flights.

Striking Eastern workers have been trying to get fliers to boycott Continental since the strike began March 4 because of their common ownership.

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