United Creates Subsidiary to Handle Ground Operations at Smaller Airports

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

United Airlines said Monday that it will create a subsidiary to handle customer service and behind-the-scenes functions at smaller airports it serves with United Express regional jet service.

Currently, those functions, including gate agents, ramp workers, baggage and cargo handling, are outsourced to other companies.

The new wholly owned subsidiary, called United Ground Express, will begin service this fall at select airports, including its new service from Kalamazoo, Mich., beginning Dec. 9.

“We saw an opportunity to provide ground handling in smaller locations that have historically been outsourced with a separate entity,” said United spokesman Charles Hobart.

The move is similar to ones made by United’s competitors, including American and Delta.

Hobart said the move will help Chicago-based United “remain competitive” in those smaller markets. It also helps United align the passenger experience at smaller airports with that at bigger airports served by United employees.

He said he had no information on how much money the move might save United.

While United Ground Express employees will be separate from United, there could be opportunity for workers at the new subsidiary to advance to work at a United hub, for example, Hobart said.

The new name is consistent with United’s regional jet service, which is operated by other companies, called United Express.