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Dec 3, 2008

United to layoff nearly 1,200 after holiday rush

Pink slips will soon be flying at United Airlines, which is preparing to lay off about 1,190 workers early next year, sources tell the Tribune.

The job cuts are part of an ongoing effort by the Chicago-based carrier to size its workforce to its shrinking airline operations.

United earlier this year said it would pare 7,000 jobs, in total, as it grounds more than 20 percent of its aircraft fleet.

"These are part of the difficult but necessary actions we are taking company-wide to enable United to compete in this challenging economic environment," said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy.

United plans to lay off about 700 mechanics as of Jan. 11. Most of the jobs to be eliminated were announced earlier this fall, but deferred until after the busy holiday travel season, sources said.

The carrier plans deep cuts at its hulking San Francisco maintenance base, where about 300 jobs will be eliminated, sources said. United is also closing repair stations at LaGuardia Airport, Newark International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport.

Leaders of the Teamsters, which represent United's mechanics, will meet with the airline's senior management on Dec. 11 and 12 to discuss the pending furloughs and contractual restraints on outsourcing work previously performed by United workers, said Leslie Miller, a spokeswoman for the union.

United also indicated that it plans to furlough as many as 490 customer service representatives and other ground workers at three airports, including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The largest of these cuts appears aimed for the carrier's home base at O'Hare. Last month, United sent letters warning of pending job cuts to 253 full-time and part-time employees O'Hare, according to the International Association of Machinists, which represents the workers.

United announced it was grounding 100 older aircraft this summer at a time when fuel prices seemingly shattered record highs every week.

Although oil prices have since tumbled, U.S. carriers must now counter a drastic fall-off in travel by consumers shell-shocked by Wall Street's meltdown and fearful for their jobs.

American Airlines, Wednesday, was the latest U.S. carrier to report a decline in travel during November.

The second-largest U.S. carrier, American said that its passenger volumes during November fell by a total of 14.5 percent, and 19.3 percent on domestic flights. American's load factor, a measure of the percentage of seats filled on aircraft, declined to 76.6 percent from the 81.2 percent mark set a year ago.

United has yet to report its travel totals for November.

Source : ChicagoTribune
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