After informing its union members early 2015 that it will outsource ground handling at 28 domestic airports and observing inefficiencies at Denver International Airport, United Airlines announced today that it will bring that function in house.
United Ground Express
The new wholly owned ground handing subsidiary is aptly named United Ground Express (refer to news bulletin here). The move is to find ways to cost effectively manage ground handing services while maintain passenger expectations.
The new company’s President Lynda Coffman has been with the airline for more than 13 years combined and most recently held the Vice President position responsible for the planning, design, production and transportation of food, beverages and onboard retail products for the airline
She mentioned that “With approximately 150 outsourced stations within the U.S., we believe we have a great opportunity to take on some work that was previously handled by business partners.
United Ground Express, while being a separate company from United Airlines, will allow us to mirror United’s flyer friendly service philosophy, providing customers with a seamless travel experience.”
The new service will be introduced on December 9, 2015 in Battle Creek International Airport in Kalamazoo, Michigan (AZO) and will progressively rollout in other stations with focus on ones where business partner Envoy is exiting (for example, New York area airports and Miami International Airport (MIA)).
It is interesting that AZO was picked as United Airlines not currently operate flights there. Update – It was just announced that United Airlines will return to AZO with thrice daily flights (double daily on Saturdays) from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) starting on December 9, 2015 using 50 seaters operated by United Express. Additionally, the airport just received a US$3.3 million federal grant for upgrades.
With this announcement, there seems to be renewed interests by United Airlines to provide customers with an enhanced service. Once United Ground Express is implemented, United Airlines would be able to challenge competitors like Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines in offering customer guarantees in baggage handling (refer to our coverage on that guarantee here – look for Delta Air Lines)