Make us your home page
Instagram

Continental Airlines closing Tampa reservations center

Nine years ago, Continental Airlines showcased its refurbished Tampa reservations center with a sense of pride. Reconfigured with new computers and festooned in Continental's blue and gray colors, the complex near Tampa International Airport boasted 1,200 reservation agents and was seeking to hire up to 400 more.

That was before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks crippled the airline industry. Before gas prices spiked. Before many turned to the Internet as their preferred way to book a flight.

By July 19, the reservations center is shutting down, forcing 685 employees into other jobs in the company or out of work, Continental said Wednesday.

About 100 of Continental's Tampa employees were immediately laid off, part of 500 of the carrier's reservations agents across the country who lost their jobs this week.

The remaining nearly 600 Tampa employees are being given the option of working from home for less pay, transferring to a Continental reservations center in Houston or Salt Lake City, or taking an "early out" severance package or leave of absence.

In an employee bulletin detailing the closing, the Houston carrier said it has been experiencing reduced call volumes "caused by a customer shift towards Web self-service and the global economic recession."

"We must make these changes to adapt to changing customer preferences toward the Web," reservations and e-commerce vice president Martin Hand told employees through the bulletin.

Continental spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said the lease for the Tampa location is expiring soon.

"It's our oldest facility and our most costly to maintain," Cripe said, "so it would have taken a substantial investment to have long-term viability."

The Tampa center, located at 4101 Jim Walter Blvd., was initially operated by the former Eastern Airlines. Continental converted the 80,000-square-foot building into its reservations center in April 1991. After ramping up and refurbishing it, the carrier started shedding jobs in 2001.

Security guards did not allow reporters onto the property Wednesday, and workers who spoke from inside the barbed wire fence protecting the two-story campus remained tight-lipped, saying they still had jobs and are instructed not to speak publicly.

Many walked around the parking lot in groups throughout the day, talking, or could be seen on cell phones in long conversations.

Some who spoke called it a sad day, but they expected to still be working when the building was shuttered, whether at home for Continental or after an imposed furlough.

They expected job cuts to be based on seniority: last hired, first fired.

In recent years, Continental increasingly has used home-based agents, including hundreds based in the bay area. Carriers like the cost savings from at-home workers and the option of enlisting them quickly if incoming calls suddenly spike. At-home employees like the freedom, flexibility and saving time and money on a commute.

Cripe said that "remote agents" receive a different base pay rate than call center agents because of significant costs associated with the technology used to support the program. Lower pay offsets some of the costs. Other company benefits and incentives are the same for at-home and call center agents.

All told, Continental employs more than 2,700 reservations agents at its three U.S. call centers.

Continental Airlines closing Tampa reservations center 05/13/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009 10:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday

    Business

    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.