United Airlines’ CEO Jeff Smisek is on a mission to cut $2BN in annual spending and is slashing anywhere and everywhere to meet that goal. The latest casualty is the United Airlines’ employees in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto.
CHICAGO – United Airlines says it is cutting 240 jobs in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.
The U.S.-based airlines says the jobs, which include customer service agents and ramp agents, will now be outsourced.
There will be 95 jobs affected in Toronto; 84 in Vancouver and 61 in Calgary.
The cuts will become effective in three months.
United says the announcement does not have any effect on the number of flights the airline operates in Canada.
Company spokesperson Christen David said in an email that the cuts were difficult but necessary decisions for the airline to run a “more efficient and financially sustainable business.”
A “more efficient and financially sustainable business”. Right.
I view this as another penny-wise, pound-foolish move on the part of United Airlines. When my own home airport in Southern California, Burbank Bob Hope, lost mainline service to San Francisco and Denver, the mainline staff was quickly canned and Skywest staff was brought in to work for a fraction of the cost. As a consequence, for the last several years I have not really got to know anyone at BUR because turnover is so high.
The point is not just about social interactions though–it is about competency and efficiency. Every time there is a problem at Burbank, the staff buckles under the pressure. Irr/ops are handled horribly and if there is a flight cancellation, your best bet is to pick up the phone and call because the Skywest agents are poorly trained and extremely slow in rebooking. Plus, they are not all that pleasant–and I notice this at other Express stations too. They are poorly trained, poorly paid, and the results are generally poor customer service.
But the situation in Canada is a bit different–United mainline is not pulling out. While I can at least understand Skywest employees working at stations that only Skywest/United Express serves, we will now see contracted workers replacing well-trained and experienced agents who know the intricacies of United’s cumbersome SHARES system and how to effectively deal with planeloads of people of different dispositions.
All may not be lost–the outsourced company may simply offer to hire back most of the employees at half of what they were making before with no flight benefits. Hey, but at least Jeff’s bonus is secure. That is not just an unreasonable snipe at Jeff–his message of desiring to create world’s leading airline is undercut by nearly every executive decision that United makes. It is really that simple–good service matters and if the new batch of employees at YVR/YYC/YYZ provide an inefficient and incompetent level of service, more customers will flee United, whether corporate or leisure. Competence matters! Customer service matters!
So my advice to United is that it needs to make sure that its new staff is competent, patient, and friendly. Even if it will be Air Canada filling in (unlikely due to costs), Air Canada is not United and the agents must be well-trained in using United’s system and also being gracious and kind to every last customer. The sad thing is that the United mainline staff in Canada was already doing that. They were doing their jobs!
It was the honest and conscientious Vancouver staff that secured my digital camera and tracked me down to send it three years ago after I foolishly left it onboard an aircraft. They showed integrity and true customer service. I will miss them and I am sure the Calgary and Toronto staff will be missed too.
I wouldn’t assume AC is taking over; in fact, I think that unlikely as AC would have similar labour costs. Here in Ottawa, we have no UA mainline service. The United Express flights are served by agents working for a 3rd-party company. They tend to be on the younger side and are generally pleasant and helpful even if they are not quite as familiar with the rules. Sometimes I’ve felt that they value my 1K status more than UA itself does!
As a YYZ based 1K this is very distressing news. I remember dropping flowers off at the UA CTO at the Royal York the morning after 9.11 on behalf of Toronto’s FlyerTalk community (along with a bouquet at the AA CTO on Gerrard) but dealing with these folks for more than 15-years. Ironic that they survived downsizing through Chapter 11 only to be sideswiped by Smisek. Wonder how much more UA is paying for its digs in the Sears Tower vs suburban Chicago? False economy to be sure.
The space is Sears Tower is actually cheaper than the old Elk Grove campus. The tower had a lot of empty space and the city made a deal for UA to move in, which actually ended up being cheaper.
While this is sad, it is inevitable and the same trend will strike at other smaller stations. I also don’t think this is limited to UA, we’ll see the same out of the new American over time. Delta has a large groud-ops business that serves other airlines, so we may not see it with them as much.
In this day and age where more and more things are becoming self-service, the need for agents is being minimized. Take that and the fact that a unionized workforce is a substantial burden and the writing is on the wall for all the secondary work groups.
People always bemoan these cuts. But they are loath to pay the cost of paying Union wages.
Spirit is the fastest growing airline – 20% yoy and despite abysmal ratings, they continue to grow despite treating customers like cattle and paying minuscule wages.
Reality is when it comes to digging into people’s pocket to pay for service, they are suddenly nowhere to be found.
As a yvr UA employee after 16 years you think the company would have come to us to say , “hey we need to cut costs, we need to cut back on wages or take back some of your vacay or cut back on medical/dental” give us some options on how to help but nope they came in shoved us in a hallway and said sorry we are kicking you out and giving your job to someone for half your pay. No options no nothing and still almost a week later we are still left in the dark, no one has told us anything, when our official last day is nothing to show what we are receiving in severance or pension, nothing. So disappointing. Our staff is mostly senior with our the youngest group like myself around 16 years up to over forty years of service. Sad to know our family in yvr will be broken apart.
“Fastest growing” is a tough metric, since they still carry less than 1% of domestic traffic. Today I have one cent to my name, then I pick up a dollar. I have the “fastest growing” net worth on the block!
They are no longer the friendly skies! After working hard and giving UA my life, for 27 years, I was forced out. 3 yrs ago I was hurt on the job. They have had me in and out of court for the last 2 years. Not approving treatments, needed medication and surgeries. All unnecessary delays. I have had to have 5 surgeries, in this time. They made me sign all my rights for my job away, in Dec 2013, just so I could get a settlement. They stopped paying any workmans comp benefits and I have depleted my savings, just to live and pay bills. So the small settlement I deserved, for all the pain and suffering, will be gone shortly paying all the bills. So I am left with nothing. As of today, I have not been contacted by anyone at UA, to tell me what my next step is. Now I have no job and no money and no prospects. Have already been turned down by another company, due to my permanent restrictions, from my injuries. You are just a number.
My condolences to all the Canadian employess. Good, efficent work ethic means nothing to UA.
I’m one of those YYC employees, and I’d like to thank you for spreading the news of this most recent United manoeuvre. The YYC and YVR stations have actually been negotiating in good faith up to the date of the announcement. There was never a hint from the company that severe cuts were going to be made, their true agenda was completely hidden
Besides the fact that our work family will be torn apart, what also grieves us is the prospect of deplorable service for our many regular and cherished VIP customers. As thee hub of the oil Canadian industry and with mainline flights to ORD, IAH, DEN, and SFO, YYC caters to a large number of a Global Service and 1K members. With the daily irrops that occur due to weather and other factors, we can’t imagine what United was thinking, biting the hands that feed it.
Farewell, my passengers. It was our pleasure to have been of service!
Why is managing United Airlines considered a group project by so many travel bloggers? I guess I as a reader have every right to criticize your writing style and subjects too. I mean seriously? Who are you to make those decisions? Just the author. Pffffft….
I will miss all my fellow employees at UA….as an AC employee we know what a good job you do and am very worried for your passenger as well all our that we share .you do a great job and because of your great work our job is easier. I think UA should rethink this as phone do not fix the problems caused by people and this will just make customers move to airlines that can and will help them. I hope that each and everyone of yyc employee is able to find much better employment that will appreciate their true value. Contract employees have no vested interest in UA and will only do the minimum and will only have minimum amount of training . That is not service,
I am sorry that you guys are losing your jobs, but I will not stand by and be looked down upon by you bunch of snobs. You guys think that just because you are mainline that y’all are better than us. I beg to differ. We go to the SAME training classes in Elk Grove that you go to taught by the same instructors that teach you all. Just because my ID badge doesn’t say United on it doesn’t mean I don’t give two shits about my job. If you look at the UP scores and bag numbers, express stations are consistently outperforming mainline stations. So before you look down your long noses to us express employees that you think are so stupid, slow, and horrible—take a long look at yourselves.