United Airlines to cut 600 jobs

January 24, 2013

Niala Boodhoo | WBEZ and The Associated Press

File: A United Airlines jet prepares to land at O'Hare International Airport.

United Airlines is cutting about 600 jobs as it aims to keep costs in line with reductions in flying.

The airline says the job cuts will include buyouts and layoffs. Some open positions won't be filled.

The cuts are spread around the company's locations, although many are expected to happen in Chicago. That's where United is based and where it has one of its biggest hubs at O'Hare International Airport. The positions being cut are in management and administration.

In a memo to workers, CEO Jeff Smisek acknowledged last year was “difficult”, but said he was “optimistic” 2013 would be better.

United officials declined to provide details to WBEZ as to what impact the layoffs will have on headquarters. They did say the cuts will first be offered on a voluntary basis before involuntary layoffs are made. The 4,000 people who work at Willis Tower downtown are in the group targeted for cuts.

Last year, United Airlines gave $5.6 million dollars back to the city -  mostly tax incremental financing, commonly called TIF funding - for its old offices on Wacker Drive.

It said then it had extended its lease at Willis Tower until 2028.

The layoffs come as United reports a loss of $723 million for last year. It's reducing flying this year, which is one reason for the layoffs.

Spokeswoman Megan McCarthy says United cut 4 senior officers last month, out of about 50 at the company. The company employs about 84,000 people worldwide.