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United jobs to depart Houston

United jobs to depart Houston

The United Airlines and Continental Airlines merger will mean 1,500 fewer jobs in the carrier's downtown Houston corporate offices.

» Career | Saturday, June 11, 2011 • Air News Times
In October, Chicago-based United and Houston-based Continental merged and took the United name. United's corporate headquarters is in Chicago, and the carrier is led by Jeff Smisek, formerly Continental's CEO, although the airlines are operating separately until they receive their single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration.


At the time of the merger's announcement in May of last year, Continental employed about 3,000 workers at its corporate offices at 1600 Smith St. and 600 Jefferson St. "To date, we've identified 1,500 corporate positions that will remain downtown. The process is still ongoing," United spokeswoman Mary Clark said.


Positions in the combined airline's technology, revenue accounting, human resources and other departments will remain in Houston. Some workers are expected to retire, relocate to Chicago, quit or their positions will be eliminated by the time the merger integration is complete in the next 18 months.


Clark did not have details about plans for the airline's downtown Houston office space.


In January, United informed the Texas Workforce Commission that it would cut 500 jobs at its downtown Houston offices between April and June 30. Those jobs were primarily in management and clerical positions, United said in a letter to the agency.


Airline officials have long said there will be few flight attendants, pilots and other front-line employee positions cut. The combined carrier employs more than 16,000 people in Houston, including those in its reservations centers and Bush Intercontinental Airport, United's largest hub.


Smisek has said he expects that the airline will add jobs in Houston as operations at the airport expand. The news about the jobs in Houston came on the same day that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Smisek held a news conference announcing that United will bring 1,300 new jobs to Chicago by the end of 2012 in an expansion of the airline's operations in the city.


They spoke on the 10th floor of the Willis Tower, United's headquarters. Route planners, operations control staff and IT professionals are some of the 1,300 positions relocating to Chicago within the next 18 months.


Clark said she didn't know how many people from Houston will relocate to Chicago to fill these jobs. When news of the merger talks between Continental and United surfaced in the spring of 2010, local politicians and business leaders tried to convince the company to make Houston its headquarters instead of Chicago.
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