Strike Threatens Holiday Travel

American Airlines Strike May Leave Students Grounded

Students counting the hours until they go home for Thanksgiving vacation may have an unpleasant surprise in store for them: if they're flying on American Airlines, they may not be going anywhere.

American Airlines pilots stopped working yesterday after the airlines' flight attendants declared an 11-day strike on Thursday. The workers are asking for an increase in pay and health benefits from the company.

The strike could not have come at a worse time for students and other travelers trying to get home for the Thanksgiving holiday--traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for U.S. airlines.

The prospect of spending Thanks giving at school has left some students understandably dismayed.

"What am I supposed to do?" asked Elizabeth L. Knighton '95, who had planned to travel home to Miami for the holiday. "I feel annoyed and disappointed, too, because I really want to go home."


Even so, Cambridge travel agents say most Harvard students should be able to make alternate plans.

"We haven't had a lot of people come in with a problem," said Kerry A. Downs of Harvard Student Agencies Travel Services.

George R. McKenzie of Harvard Travel Services said that students flying to locations in the Northeast will largely remain unaffected by the strike, since most of American Airlines is "more of a long-haul traveler."

American flights from Boston often have destinations in the major cities of the West Coast and the South, he said.

Many students who live in regions farther away choose to stay on the East Coast during the four-day thanksgiving vacation, and the strike will not affect them, McKenzie said.

But Robert S. Lee '97 had the misfortune of being one of those booked on one of American's Northeastern flight. A native of California, he plans to visit a friend in Syracuse, N.Y. He said the news of the American Airlines work stoppage took him by surprise.

"Quite honestly, I had no idea they were havinga strike," Lee said. "If I couldn't go forThanksgiving, I would be very mad at AmericanAirlines and would never buy another ticket fromthem."

Though fewer than 20 percent of AmericanAirlines' departures were able to fly passengerson Thursday, other carriers came to the rescue.Customers can transfer their tickets to airlinessuch as United, Delta, and Continental withoutcost and reach their destinations with minimalhassle.

Spokespersons for other airlines said thecarriers plan to maintain the policy of allowingAmerican Airlines' passengers to fill their emptyseats as long as the strike lasts.

However, as Thanksgiving approaches, unoccupiedseats on airplanes become harder to find.According to a United Airlines spokesperson, as ofyesterday there were no seats on any of United'sflights from Boston to Dallas next Wednesday. Oneseat was available on only one of itsBoston-Dallas flights on Thanksgiving morning.

Delta Airlines has a more restrictive policy.It will not allow the lower-class, lower-faretickets to transfer from American to Delta unlessthe customer's flight has already been cancelled,a spokesperson said.

Customers with American tickets cannot reservea seat on Delta until they are certain that theirflights have been cancelled. By then, it may betoo late to get tickets on Delta's Thanksgivingflights, the spokesperson said