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.