United ended its baggage handling contract at Denver International Airport with SkyWest, which has a unionized workforce, replacing it with a contractor that pays many workers the minimum wage. What happened next is predictable:
United Airlines’ baggage-handling issues at Denver International Airport have gotten so out of hand that airport CEO Kim Day has personally reached out to the airline to offer assistance.
“She asked if there was anything the airport can do,” airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said. “The offer has been extended. We are confident United is doing everything they can.”
United’s troubles with lost luggage, delayed flights and a chaotic baggage-claim area, with bags tossed everywhere, have gone on for weeks and are extending beyond the airline to color travelers’ perceptions of the airport as a whole.
Several passengers say they will try never to travel through Denver again, including tourist Jonathan Huckabay, whose luggage went missing when he connected through DIA on Saturday.
He was returning home to Edmonton, Alberta, from a vacation in Mexico when his flight was delayed for more than an hour because of issues getting luggage loaded onto the plane in Denver.
“I will definitely avoid going through Denver if I can help it,” he said. “I was looking forward to seeing the airport and perhaps visiting the city as I hadn’t passed through that hub before, but the experience has soured me on this particular city’s airport.”
Huckabay still did not have his bag Tuesday.
It’s hardly worth blaming the employees themselves, either. They are, almost to a person, new hires and woefully underpaid. United has recently made the mind-boggling decision to cut ties with its veteran airport staff (through the unionized company SkyWest) and instead hire the lowest bidding contractor they could find. SkyWest’s workers are paid an average of $12 to $24 an hour. Instead of paying employees those wages, United contracted a company ironically called, “Simplicity,” which advertises wages of just $8 an hour — the lowest legal wage a company can give in the city of Denver.
I’m sure that if people complain too much, United can always move to another city that will appreciate the company as the deity that it sees itself as being.