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Continental to hire 200 ticket agents

Continental Airlines is doing its part to check Florida's rising unemployment rate.

The Houston-based carrier said Tuesday it plans to hire 200 more workers for its Tampa Reservations Center, which already employs 575 people.

"We've been in constant hiring mode since last November," said Bob Pryce, director of the reservations center. "We haven't even put in an ad. We get about 10 to 15 people in every day to fill out applications."

A year ago, the bunker-like structure on Columbus Drive stood empty after its tenant, Eastern Airlines, went out of business.

Continental moved in May 1 with 425 employees and added 150 more over the next nine months. About 225 of the employees were former Eastern workers. Another 175 came from two Continental reservations centers elsewhere in the country that were closed, Pryce said. The remainder were from the Tampa Bay area.

The 200 new hires will be mostly local, Pryce said. About 70 percent of them will work full-time. The reservation center operates every day from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Employees earn a base salary of $5.77 an hour and there is an incentive plan under which workers can earn up to $150 a month, based on their sales performance, Pryce said.

One caveat: Prospective employees must complete a five-week training course during which they are paid a $50 weekly stipend, but no salary. Pryce said 95 percent of the trainees complete the course and become regular employees.

Applications are available at Continental's Tampa Reservations Center on Columbus Drive, near the airport.

Continental, which is in bankruptcy reorganization, has 16 flights in and out of Tampa.