When the pilot strike finally ended at Continental I learned that I, along with 137 other junior pilots were incredibly not protected by the back-to-work agreement. In it, we lost all our years of seniority at our airline.
However some of our group did return despite the bitter circumstances, while I and some others decided to litigate for our rightful, old seniority positions. Meanwhile, I became involved in the Continental spin-off, Pride Air.
While quite a number of new-entrant airlines had sprung up in the years following airline deregulation, Pride Air was unique among them. When Texas Air and Frank Lorenzo threatened the hostile takeover of Continental, Chief Pilot Paul Eckel organized an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to block Lorenzo, with a friendly employee takeover of Continental. When that valiant effort failed, plan B for many was Pride Air.
Pride Air was unique in that nearly all the capital to launch the airline ($16 million) came from its prospective employees. (Fortunately as it later turned out, I was a relatively small investor.) Following months of soliciting funds, planning and training, and receiving an FAA Certificate, Pride Air launched with routes from the West Coast to Florida, through its hub in New Orleans.
Since I had invested only a "relatively" small amount in the airline's initial public stock offering, I was at the bottom of a very long pilot seniority list (many above me in Pride seniority having invested very large sums, many using their Continental Airline's retirement funds). Therefore with only a 11 B-727 aircraft leased and an excess of investors/pilots, I was not flying. However, I was offered and happily accepted a position as Pride Air's Area Sales Manager for the San Diego area, several months before any actual flights began. It was a great, valuable, and immensely fun learning experience... however painfully brief.
Pride Air was an interesting, exciting, and bittersweet experience. It was also a short experience. Within the year, Pride Air ceased to exist. Theoretically, its business plan was sound. However a variety of external factors - including even Frank Lorenzo - all coincided to ensure the airline's premature doom, despite its initial promise.
For most, having experienced the tumultuous and bitter hostile takeover of our former airline, and its subsequent bankruptcy to void our labor contracts, followed by our beleaguered employee's subsequent strike against this corporate raider Lorenzo, the early failure of Pride Air was to be yet another incredibly brutal – and profoundly expensive for most employees – final blow.
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