NEW BOSS AT EASTERN MAKES PITCH

NEW BOSS AT EASTERN MAKES PITCH

Echoing New York's former mayor, Ed ("How'm I Doin'?") Koch, the new boss at Eastern Airlines, Martin Shugrue, worked the aisles and schmoozed with passengers, the press and the people working for him - at 39,000 feet above Florida.

Last week's high-altitude antics weren't a lark. They were part of a choreographed program to repackage Eastern Airlines, beset in the past year by a bitter strike, bankruptcy and a barrage of negative publicity.At the heart of the effort: a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign with Mr. Shugrue, the son of a retired Irish cop, as star player. With hair slicked straight back and his left foot resting on the armrest of the first- class seat, Mr. Shugrue gave a heartfelt pitch to the passengers, like a coach exhorting his team on, as the cameras rolled.

"Good morning, I'm Marty Shugrue," he told the passengers. "I want to know how we're doin'."

He heard an earful on Flight 218, bound for Atlanta.

Some complaints were minor. The tray tables were dirty; the milk container in first class was makeshift.

Others were more serious.

Reservations were not honored. Trips to the ticket counter were marred by boos and hisses from striking machinists. The airline's troubled financial condition was a concern.

"It would be nice if you can turn a profit," said Robert Ellyson, a Miami accountant.

Mr. Shugrue noted that the airline is working toward that.

The ad campaign is one of the first steps. Eastern and its new ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather, got the idea to focus on Mr. Shugrue's new face shortly after the bankruptcy court appointed him as trustee.

"It's very simple," said George Brennan, Eastern's vice president of marketing. "What's new at Eastern is Marty. There has been a change and we want to signal (it)."

The Shugrue campaign is designed to win back those travelers who are still hesitant about flying Eastern. When Eastern last surveyed customers in February, about 15 percent to 20 percent said they remained apprehensive about flying the airline.