In a bid to cut costs, United Airlines will outsource its remaining flight kitchens, handing over catering to a trio of contractors.
United Airlines Closing Flight Kitchens This Fall
Earlier this year, United Airlines warned that it was reviewing the status of its flight kitchens and studying the feasibility of outsourcing them after federal payroll support ends this autumn.
Unsurprisingly, United informed employees yesterday that it is moving ahead with plans to close its flight kitchens and will proceed with three different contractors to supply in-flight catering starting in October.
In a note to impacted employees, Mandeep Grewal, United’s Vice President of Customer Strategy & Innovation and Catering said:
“You should know that this was a decision that we put a lot of thought and consideration into – at the end of the day, we wanted to proceed in a way that allowed us to protect the vast majority of jobs for our United catering team members, and invest in solutions that significantly improve our customers’ onboard experience.”
All employees “in good standing” will be offered a job with one of the new contractors and 70% will remain under union representation. Flight and other benefits will also be maintained during the transition period.
United is the last U.S. legacy airline to operate its own flight kitchens, with ex-Continental catering facilities in Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Honolulu, and Newark.
Those will now transition to a three contractors:
- Gate Gourmet
- Denver (DEN)
- Honolulu (HNL)
- Newark (EWR)
- Sky Café
- Cleveland (CLE)
- Houston (IAH)
Passengers will be unlikely to notice a difference in catering, though Grewal’s statement that United is closing its kitchens in order to “invest in solutions that significantly improve our customers’ onboard experience” strikes me as curious.
It is no surprise that every employee was offered a job with one of the new contractors. Throughout the airline industry, contractors are struggling to fill roles left vacant during the pandemic as travel bounces back. In most cases, employees will find their position pays less and includes fewer benefits than before.
On the one hand, United Airlines cannot be blamed for trying to pay less for the same goods. This move will allow United to cut costs as it tries to return to profit. On the other hand, what a slap in the face to U.S. taxpayers, who bailed out the entire airline, including (and especially) management only to have the favor returned by laying off staff that are vital to the functioning of the airline to save a few bucks.