A story about the TWA strike in yesterday's Business section incorrectly stated figures on the number of hours worked by flight attendants. The figures represent the number of hours worked each month, not weekly.
Trans World Airlines flight attendants went on strike early yesterday, causing the financially troubled airline to curtail scheduled flights by 50 percent.
But TWA Chairman Carl Icahn, who took over the airline in January, said he expects service to return to normal in four to six days despite the walkout by about 5,700 flight attendants.
"TWA, I can tell you now, for sure, is here to stay," the financier-turned-airline-executive told a press conference.
The flight attendants went on strike shortly after the end of a federally mandated 30-day cooling off period, which terminated at 12:01 a.m. Friday. The union and the airline had failed to reach agreement on wage and work-rule concessions. "We're going to shut this place down," said union President Victoria Frankovich yesterday. "We went as far as we could . . . far beyond what other groups . . . were required to do."
The airline shut down service out of Newark Airport in New Jersey and canceled international flights to Copenhagen, Barcelona, Tel Aviv and Athens. With those exceptions, however, TWA maintained service on all its routes, spokeswoman Sally McElwreath said. In some cases, however, the number of flights was reduced, she said.
The striking flight attendants were replaced by 1,500 new hires and about 1,500 supervisors and other nonunion employes.
TWA's pilots -- who have a no-strike clause in their contract -- continued working despite the strike, but at least some of the airline's mechanics were honoring the picket lines. "Contrary to what you may have heard, the machinists are supporting us," Icahn said. But TWA went into U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent members of the International Association of Machinists from supporting the strike. That request was denied. The Associated Press reported that about 800 workers stayed away from the maintenance base there.
TWA, which already has won concessions from its pilots and mechanics unions and has imposed 15 percent pay cuts on nonunion workers and management, initially had asked the flight attendants to accept a salary cutback of 22 percent and work-rule changes. The flight attendants had countered with a proposal to accept a 15 percent cutback and work-rule changes in a package worth $30 million to the airline. Before negotiations ended, the flight attendants had agreed to concessions worth another $20 million, said Karen Lantz, vice president of the Independent Federation of Flight Attendants.
Icahn said the flight attendants turned down his entreaties to take an amended proposal for 17 percent cutback to the membership. When the strike began, TWA took that offer off the table and imposed the 22 percent pay cut.
Icahn and analysts noted that TWA has about $600 million in cash that will help the airline ride out the strike. "I think if they can keep 50 percent flying, they should be able to keep going for a while," said Thomas Canning, an airline analyst for Standard & Poors.
Icahn said the strike has created "a new esprit de corps" at the embattled airline, which has suffered in competition with price-cutting competitors and which reported losses of $193.1 million last year.
TWA management and the flight attendants had been meeting with representatives of the National Mediation Board in an attempt to settle the contract dispute. Talks on revising the contract began in July 1984. Although no further talks have been scheduled, the parties are expected to resume talks with the National Mediation Board at some point.
Icahn said that the flight attendants, whose base salaries range from $16,080 to $28,862 a year, average $35,000 a year. One of the key demands TWA made of the attendants is that they spend an additional two hours a week in the air without qualifying for overtime. Currently, flight attendants are paid overtime after 65 hours a week in the air and are paid for an average of about 75 hours a week, Lantz said. Because their jobs involve sitting around in airports waiting for trips, time spent in hotels during rest periods and time spent on check-in and pre-flight certification, those hours in the air amount to about 240 hours a week spent away from home and on the job, she said.