United Has an Operational Problem in Denver

DEN - Denver, United

We’ve seen the same story play out all over the country. Airlines figure they can save some money by outsourcing their airport ramp operations and, at least in the short run, customers pay the price. That’s exactly what’s happening right now in Denver with United Express. Bags are being delayed and flights aren’t running on time. If you’re flying on United Express (or United mainline for that matter) to or through Denver, brace yourselves.

In Denver, United has its own people working on the ramp loading bags, cargo, and performing all the other functions necessary to get an airplane going from the ground. But United Express has long been handled by SkyWest. Last year, United decided it was paying too much for the work, so it opted to go with a low cost provider, Simplicity. Simplicity is a subsidiary of Menzies, and that’s a company that is definitely experienced in handling this work. The problem is that you’re only as good as the people you hire.

United Express Denver Ramp Workers

The job description didn’t have anything out of the ordinary in it. The only thing that stood out was that candidates “Must be available and flexible to work variable shifts including overtime, weekends and holidays.” Must be available for overtime? That sounds pleasant. Then again, the pay makes it so that overtime would probably be highly desirable. Though I didn’t see the pay rates on the Simplicity site, the company has gone out to craigslist with job postings. I’m told that they started at the Colorado minimum wage of $8 an hour. But a post I saw from December 18 shows they’d gone up to $11. Then a post on January 2nd showed them offering $12 an hour. Clearly they aren’t getting the people they need if the rate keeps going up.

I first received a heads-up about this back in November. At that point, Simplicity had taken over a couple gates for training and I’m told things were not going well. I was warned to keep an eye on things, because once the switch happened, it would be ugly. That appears to have been correct.

It didn’t take long before reports of baggage chaos started coming in. It took forever for bags to come out on the carousel, and there were also reports of bags being handled improperly. We won’t know the extent of this until the DOT report on mishandled bags comes out for December, but we can see the impact in other ways already.

While bags may be taking a long time to get to the carousel, you can imagine that means connecting bags are also having problems. And that means delays. Since bags connect between mainline and Express flights all day long, the delays can bleed over into United’s mainline operation as well.

I took a look at on-time performance in Denver from December 15-31 using masFlight.com to get an idea of how things were going. United mainline saw 69.8 percent of flights arrive within 14 minutes of schedule but only 52 percent depart within 15 minutes of schedule. For United Express, the numbers were worse. A mere 60.7 percent of flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule with only 46.2 percent of flights departing within 15 minutes of schedule. That’s just bad. While the arrival rates aren’t great (behind Southwest at a not-so-good 72.6 percent rate but still better than Frontier at 61.9 percent), you can see that the airline is clearly losing time in the Denver hub and departure rates are worse. That, of course, delays those airplanes coming back to Denver later in the day, further impacting on-time arrival performance. It’s not good.

What’s the fix? I can’t imagine we’re going to see United walk away from this vendor, but there have to be some performance guarantees in the contract somewhere. It appears that Simplicity is already raising rates to try to find more of the right people. This has happened before. Eventually it’ll all get smoothed out, but for now, bring your patience with you if you’re flying United in Denver.

[Original airport ramp photo via Shutterstock]

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93 comments on “United Has an Operational Problem in Denver

  1. I’m sitting in DEN right now. Last night’s flight was canceled after 2 delays. This morning’s flight at 5:00 AM has been delayed twice now because of crew rest requirements. If I get home, I’m talking the AAdvantage challenge and to hell with United.

    1. I was on an AA flight DEN-Chicago that eventually left 45 minutes late. Customer service agent said the ramp was short staffed. Seemed to be 3 people working the miami Airbus A321 next door and our flight. Maybe try Delta or Southwest?

    2. Well, do you actually think it’s gonna be better? As long as we’re not willing to pay appropriate fares (and thus wages), we’re not getting appropriate service anywhere.
      Or would you be willing to lift 1000lbs in a snowstorm at 0 degrees wind chill for $10 an hour? Didn’t think so.

      1. Only 1000lbs? I had 4000 worth of freight and 5500lbs of bags this morning on my ATL flight. That’s tough even with 5 people.

  2. Regarding wages, keep in mind that DIA is miles and miles and miles from anywhere you can live. The airport driveway itself is 10 miles long. And the way airlines bid shifts (even companies like Menzies), the new-hire workers are stuck with whatever shifts are left over. You don’t know if you’ll be working AMs, PM, or what your days off will be. So how does an entry level employee plan around a school schedule or 2nd job?

  3. It’s fascinating to me how different Delta is from United. I don’t fly AA, but they seem to not have these issues either.

    United has DEN. Delta has SLC. Weather is weather. Delta is making more money than it can count. I guess United is starting too also, though largely from fuel prices?

    Why is it so hard for them to figure this out?

  4. It’s too true and even worse, whenever the weather gets a little nasty you are liable to find the ramp rats (I used to be one so I can use that term) enjoying a snack or beverage in the gate area or strolling the concourse. I’ve seen this twice at DEN with aircraft stuck on the ramp 50′ from the gate waiting on rampers to decide they could go to work. On the second occurrence I tracked down the supervisor who seemed genuinely shocked that I should care… I avoid DEN on SkyWorst.

  5. Anecdotally American Eagle was having operational meltdowns earlier this week at ORD. Cancelled flights, delayed flights, gate changes, no information. Weather was marginal but nothing extreme for Chicago. Same issue about outsourcing, or for different reasons?

    1. Greg – No labor action in Chicago that I know of. I believer there were some issues with the cold weather, though I haven’t confirmed that.

  6. 8 dollars an hour for a random schedule (making it difficult to impossible to hold a 2nd job, and pretty much excludes anybody that has responsibilities for child care), back-breaking work, and a long-ish commute? What could go wrong?

    Obviously you are only going to attract the nearly-unemployable with wages that pathetic and a job that bad. NCNS (No-Call, No-Show) will be endemic, throwing operations into chaos. Your employment candidates will routinely fail drug and alcohol checks, and many will not pass background screenings.

    How could the 3rd-party provider, who provides such services elsewhere, screw up that badly? One does not need years of experience and management training to know that this was not going to work. Even an underpaid McDonald’s shift lead could have listed out all the problems they were going to have with that plan. Sounds like whoever they put in charge of the DEN operations was somebody’s nephew/neice or something that got sent over from some non-operations part of the business, like marketing or finance and never had worked an honest day’s work in his/her life.

    1. Before you start stereotyping people, why don’t you try a day as a ramp agent. You’d probably get your ass kicked.

    2. MBA culture. They make their own reality, and fire anyone uppity enough to burst their fantasy bubble by pointing out real problems.

  7. I was on one of those delayed United Express flights out of Denver the week after Christmas. The flight boarded more or less on time, then we sat at the gate for over an hour waiting for fuel. I don’t understand the workings of an airport, but when a plane doesn’t have the fuel it needs at its scheduled departure time someone has dropped the ball. United seemed to be working so hard to lose my business that I was happy to take it elsewhere.

  8. Alaska Airlines uses Menzies at its main hub in SEA. There were serious growing pains and mishandled bags and delayed flights and even the odd baggage tug running into a plane. It was a mess. But after some time things have smoothed out and AS runs a smooth punctual operation at SEA with Menzies handling pretty much all of the below the wing work. I don’t think AS has its own employees handling below the wing anywhere.

    I would imagine that UA plans to weather the storm, as it were, and try to make Menzies work at DEN, and if they can make it work at DEN, and it save money, we can expect them to roll out outsourcing to more stations over time. While the transition may be rough, there is likely no critical need to have its own employees performing this function. Of course the unions won’t like it, but if the pay and benefits are out of whack with what an outsourcer costs, it’s probably inevitable and protects the jobs of those who cannot be outsourced like pilots and flight attendants against LCC encroachment.

  9. I’m old school (baby boomer) and was brought up where you did the best you could at the job you were hired for. So what happen with that belief in younger generations, not just in this case, but with any job now a days. It seems more and more people want to be paid a lot of money to not do anything and it shows. Is it really the workers or is it just the company not doing their part in training and providing whatever is needed for these people to do the job, or is it the media just making a big deal out of nothing. After all, no one starting a new job is going to be as good/fast as someone who’s been doing the same job for awhile and Denver winter weather isn’t going to help those outside doing the job anyway.

    1. This is based on several years of dealing directly with ramp operations people:

      Training and equipment is certainly part of it, but it’s mainly just like any other unskilled labor force. There’s a few people who consistently exceed expectations, there’s a bunch of people that more or less meet expectations, and there’s a few people that do everything they can to avoid work. This holds true across generations, however the older folks tend more toward one of the extremes.

    2. Your generation was paid a living wage for an honest day’s work. Try living on $8 an hour in 2015 and see how far it gets you.

      I’m a “Millennial” (I hate that term) and I busted my tail to work my way up to the position I’m in. Contrary to popular belief by folks in your generation, the majority of folks my age are no strangers to hard work and we’re getting tired of being labeled lazy by a generation who had a solid economy handed to them. Many of us have had to work harder and without the safety net of decent-paying blue collar jobs.

      1. So true! Many of them had government “handout” programs like you wouldn’t believe, including free college tuition. Plus and economy that was structured to build an American middle-class. Today, it’s the exact opposite. (and this is coming from a bona-fide Old)

        1. I, too am “an old” and i agree with Mile-High Joe. I feel sorry for young people today with college debt and prospects for earning decent wages. I feel as if I really did have an easier time because I was confident I could get a good paying job because of the economy.

      2. The point I was making that if you except a job for any price, you should still do the best job you can. So the issue at DIA with UA is it workers slacking on the job or is it lack of training, need proper equipment for the work, short staffed or just need to give them time to learn the job better and improve their performance.

        FYI, my first full time job was $1.80 an hour which per the U.S. Department of Labor web site would be about $10.00 today.

        1. One of the other things that has also really change since your generation David is companies have gotten to using “flexible scheduling” which really means they ask you to work when they need you to. There is no consistency and its horrible trying to build a life around that.

          I’ve done that in other jobs and it just sucks.

          The days of working first, second, or third shift and having that consistently are getting quite a bit rarer.

    3. +1 to what JD said.

      Also, David, your generation:
      — College tuition was more heavily subsidized by state governments. At least for the University of Washington the inflation adjusted cost to educate each undergrad has not changed, its the state subsidy that has been reduced, increasing student’s tuition.
      — Employers weren’t as caviler with laying off people. In general you got a job and you kept it for much of your life, so forgive us if we don’t jump instantly for everything an employer wants.

  10. I would love to hear the conversations behind closed doors at Denver between UAL and Menzies and then between Menzies “supervisors” (if they even have any) and their $8.00/hour employees. Or better still the UA Management at DEN and their headquarters in Houston or Chicago.
    Let’s see, you’re making $8.00/hour working in the pit of an airplane, humping bags, rain, cold, snow and earsplitting noise. You don’t own a car to even get to the job in reasonable condition or on time, and you get no health, medical or savings (401k) benefits – like you could even save $5.00/week into a 401k anyway, and certainly no flight benefits. Gee, what could go wrong ?

    1. They didn’t outsource the customer service desks. They used their own agents. United Express has actual United employees.

    2. Darkwater – I don’t know. If, as EB says, that’s not true, then there’s your answer. If it is outsourced, it could just be labor contract related. I don’t know.

      1. The last time I checked in at DIA it was outsourced (to whom I’ve forgotten); at the time the agents weren’t even wearing UA uniforms. The on-concourse customer service desks and gate agents at a station as large as DIA could be handled separately.

  11. Make no mistake, this move by United is an unmitigated disaster here in Denver, with the potential to severely impact our touri$m. Our local tv stations have interviewed frustrated passengers who are swearing they will never travel to or thru DIA again. Baggage delays of 3 days are common so people are embarking on their ski vacations with no clothes.

    It appears that the DIA management is completely helpless and entirely ineffective. They rely on United for most of their income, so they’re afraid of express any anger or impose any penalties–even after United fired 650 locals with decent-paying jobs in exchange for the $8 workers who created this shitshow. Meanwhile, United is bringing down all of Denver with no solution in sight.

    1. C’mon, United pre-merger at it’s worst was never as bad as this. Doesn’t this tell people that ever since they merged with Can’tinental, and with CO’s top-heavy management calling the shots everywhere, this has become nothing but a 5th rate cheap-minded airline ? Blind and deaf to passenger’s complaints and needs. A relative of mine works at Denver on the ramp (over 35 years). The horror stories are endless. If they would just listen to the front line employees and solicit feedback from them, this would be a start to improvement. Better yet, ignore your employees and go plant a few spies at Delta – see how they run their operation (even with express carriers). But no, none of this is even to be considered. They have lost tens of thousands of high value fliers since 3/3/12 to AA and DL etc., to save pennies, which in the long run has cost them $millions if not $billions. Dumbing down everything until even Spirit will surpass them (and at this point it’s probably an insult to Spirit). Honestly if CO d.b.a. UA could rid itself of everything “United” (including hundreds of senior employees who outnumber the CO employees 2 to 1), they would probably find a way to do it. The only wall that has stopped them is unionization of the rank and file – yes, that union (IAM) that has it’s faults but at least fought for job security, real seniority, wage and benefit increases. Without that unionization, ALL of the DEN ramp would have been outsourced and next would be Customer Service. Though there were clauses in the union contract that allowed for some outsourcing (UAX stations) of ramp and customer service, CO d.b.a. can’t touch all of it. The way of America, keep it in-house !!

      1. Who needs to plant spies, UA already hires DL(via DGS) to do their ramp. Just ask them! I’m sure there are DGSers not happy with DL and willing to talk.

      2. Connie Continental’s comments have been deleted. If you’re reading this, feel free to repost without the completely unnecessary personal attacks.

    2. I chuckled when I saw or read a quick blurb about mountain town ski shops (already high priced) having an increase in business as people arrived to resorts not having their ski clothes and forking over a few hundred dollars a piece as not to ruin their ski days.

    1. There reply to KUSA-DT a few days ago was “We are working with Simplicity to resolve the issues and hope to have everything running smoothly very soon”

      1. Love it…..”we’re working with Simplicity”. Of course they are going to say that.
        Well it’s benefitting my family member, who works for United. He’s making $40/hour on overtime to be part of a mop up crew, with no end in sight.

        Hmm, paying $8.00/hour to Menzies’ ramp employees (x 8 hours if they are even full-time?), that’s $64.00/day and $320/week before taxes (if they show up). UA ramp makes $25.00/hour = $200/day = $1,000 week before taxes. Throw in 8 more hours of overtime = $320 but at least the job would be done by people with decades of experience doing it. Right, it’s not rocket science but you or I could not just enter the ramp side and know what to do (staging, moving, transferring bags, etc.). Like many others have said – you get what you pay for.

    2. 121 Pilot – United has had comments in pretty much each of the links I posted in the story. I don’t expect to hear anything different than “we are working to fix the issues.”

  12. At 8 bucks an hour, you aren’t going to get people that can pass a background check to work at an airport. And the recruiters are just burning money trying. You want good people? Pay a fare wage. Amazing how few employers get that.

    1. Exactly. I hate to paint with a broad brush, but the type of folks who would accept $8/hr for a job at DIA probably can’t pass the pre-employment drug test in a state where marijuana is legal.

        1. Well, I was thinking more along the lines of the 2 year background check unearthing prior convictions, etc. I once was in charge of hiring for people who needed state clearance, along with fingerprinting, etc. Low pay, and a lot of folk who had priors. Even had a guy who did a stint in jail for murder. It took several weeks for the state results to come in. Was kinda scary having to fire that guy…

  13. SkyWest wasn’t perfect, but they seemed to take pride in the work they did. You get what you pay for…and United is famous for stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.

  14. Not quite following your comparison between mainline and ex. The mainline spread between arrive / depart is a factor of 18. While the ex spread is factor of 15. All else equal, a late arrival will translate generally into more challenging on time turns. So I would surmise it’s not just DEN departures that are the problem, but combined with inbound late arrivals. Wonder what mainline’s DEN dep rate would be if inbound was only 61%? Having said that, it is true that UA’s outsourcing strategy (and others as well) are a short term solution with a long term cost that is being currently ignored, and that the immediate impact is to the customers and crews, and not anyone at headquarters. But I do think it’s a little too easy to say 46% is bad solely because of the ground crews at DEN without looking at overall operations. There are several factors at play as to why UA’s reliability is a daily roll of the dice – world wide.

    1. dxs5651 – I wasn’t comparing mainline and express. I was just giving both numbers to show how much they’re losing in the hub. Of course there are several factors that impact this, but when you lose 15 points in the hub, that’s bad news. Besides, United has already acknowledged that it has a problem here.

  15. Enlightening. I flew through DEN in mid Nov connecting from express to mainline. We landed on time and were even going into a real gate (like 56, not the 80-90 thing) so I thought I would be good to catch my next flight. Except… The plane just sat for 20 minutes plus waiting for the ground crew to come into the gate. I made the connection but not by much… As low as my expectations are for any airline, that was pathetic.

  16. Anything really unique with the situation at DEN? Isn’t this the state of UA and all airlines today, just about everywhere?

    The UA situation at DEN, is UA-IAD really any different? A while back Air Wisconsin had lots of ads in local papers, next to the McDonald ads, for baggage handlers, for UA flights, I understand. Can you imagine what types of people and pay rates, security levels, etc. they got in that contracting out situation? I have never been too happy with IAD UA baggage handling.

    Anyone able to comment on UA DEN vs. IAD, at least related to baggage handling quality of contractor, efficiency, etc? [Oh yes, yes, I love low fares but, shock, shock, I am willing to pay a little more for quality, efficient service.]

    1. I’ve been Alaska MVP for over three years now. Flying 35k+ miles a year, I’ve never yet been the recipient of a voucher thanks to their 20-minute baggage delivery guarantee. It was really close one time at DCA from SEA thanks to horrible weather, but at 18 minutes, the light came on and there were the bags. :-) So I’d say that in my experience, it’s NOT like this everywhere. And the AS flights are usually on time as well, very rarely late, about half the time earlier than published.

      1. AS seems to be able to do a lot of things well, I’ll have to admit.

        Makes one wonder even more why others can’t seem to figure this all out.

      2. Alaska contracts out baggage handling and all ramp work to Menzies (and other vendors) at all their stations, including their hub in Seattle?

  17. Why would United make these changes just before the holidays? Would it be better to make the change at the beginning of the year. That would give you several months before the major holidays?

    1. As a former SkyWest employee, actually United wanted us to stay through the winter. SkyWest said no Both companies don/t care what they do to employees or passengers. SkyWest having so many employees scrambling for employment just before Christmas. Both companies are evil!

      1. Hrm… While it sucks, there is a bit of a benefit in that companies (retail yes.) go crazy hiring around the holidays. It might’ve been easier to get onboard with a company then.. Though yeah it still sucks.

  18. I looked at the craigslist ad where they were offering $12/hr. It also said “telecommuting okay” on the right side of the page under the salary and map …

    1. Got a link? I want to apply. gcmap says I am 967 miles from Denver, but I do have high speed internet at work for some “extracurricular activity” during boring conference calls. :)

  19. As long as Wall St analysts call airline CEO’s onto the mat for “leaving money on the table” and pressure them to reduce costs we will continue to have this “rocky road” that we are seeing in DEN. It appears to be increasingly more difficult for C-levels to recognize that their main asset is in their people, unions and labor groups aside. There was a time that airline execs MANAGED airlines, and took care of their employees (without either giving them the store, or treating them like dirt). Perhaps the pendulum will swing back to that type of management again?

    1. One of the jobs of an airline CEO is to properly communicate to wall street why you’re spending money, and how you expect it to increase revenues. You’ve gotta put money on the table to get more money onto the table..

  20. So that explains the mess on Dec 27. Our GoJet flight from MSN arrived 15 minutes early, only to wait on the tarmac for over 40 minutes. An early flight became a technical late arrival. Because of our tight connection we had to run from one end of the terminal (United Distress basement gates) to the other.

    Turns out about a dozen other passengers were in the same boat as us – all connecting from Express flights. Thanks for shedding some light on this – definitely makes sense. Knowing it’s a cost issue really makes me scratch my head as to why I paid for F class.

  21. In 2001 I was a fueler @ SFO making 10:50 hr. and that was starting pay. Man things have gone down hill….Never had a delayed flight on my shift because of no fuel. But that’s just me. Retired in 2002…..

  22. I really don’t think this issue with simplicity is just the low wages. Even $15 an hour is not worth breaking you back loading bags. The problem is the lack of flight benefits. There are plenty of us boomers, still active, hard workers and willing to work for even low wages because we really don’t need the money. What’s missing from Simplicity are flight benefits. I know-I worked on the ramp. Didn’t need the 9.50 I got paid-I stayed for the flight benefits.

  23. i worked with Skywest for 3.5 years until December 3rd, when I made the switch to simplicity, and now have started wiTh UA this week. ALLOW ME TO CLEAR SLME THINGS UP: simplicity offered (now and forever) $10/hr MINIMUM to work its ramp. That was for off the street new hires. Former Skywest were offered $11/hr. Leads are given $14/hr, coordinators $16/hr and $18/hr for supervisors. The baggage is now completely handled by UA mainline employees, except for city bags (terminating in Denver, plane to claim #15). Yes, it is a mess. Yes, there’s a ton of confusion. Yes, bags aren’t making it where they need to be. But it certainly isn’t from a lack of people busting their ass out there to get things done. We are all trying to do the job of six people right now. In fact, a minimum staffing number would probably be about 110 out there at a time. On Tuesday of last week, we had 35 people show up to work. They just don’t have the staffing.

    I largely blame United not giving simplicity flight benefits. If they would’ve done that, half the people at Skywest would’ve come over. The pay is better than it was at Skywest, and thats the main reason most of the people who were at Skywest worked there. Sure, like every job it has its slackers, but us old OO people are really the only thing saving this company right now. Everyone else out here is new, and new people in a station the size of DEN is always tough. There’s so much to teach. All of us were like that at one point. The differences now instead of a handful of trainees, it’s 70% of the workforce. Things are improving, very VERY slowly.

    Also, and here’s the kicker, United actually got a higher bid from simplicity than Skywest. That’s right, United is actually paying MORE for this and they would have with Skywest. I understand the frustration. I really really do. But rest assured they’re busting their butts trying to do the work of ten more people than they should to make it happen. I know it is a thankless job, that’s what I signed up for, I know there’s ZERO excuses for what is going on. I just want people to understand how overworked and understaffed we really are. At the very least I want to clear up some misconceptions about what’s going on out there.

    1. And apologies for the atrocious spelling/grammar mistakes etc. Trying to speech dictate that whole thing didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. Thanks everyone.

    2. Can you clarify the “pay is better than SkyWest” comment?

      Is the hourly pay for the same position and longevity better? Or did they do the typical contractor swap where the pay at each position is lower but they offer a higher-titled position to transfers, so individuals may get higher pay even as each position as a whole is paid less?

      Also do you know why United would opt for the higher-cost Simplicity bid, or even why the bid was higher cost if it reset all employee longevity to 0? Was it purely to dump flight benefits?

      As a former OO pilot you’ve probably worked many of my flights. Thank you. I know you guys more than most bust your butts with far too little help.

    3. Exactly all if this could have been avoided if they would have just offred flight benifits. I also worked for OO until Dec 3rd worked cs and then ramp. A lot of this is United’s fault and could have been avoided. Smh for those out there working in the madness good luck!

    4. DEN UA/UAX Ramper – Thanks for chiming in here. I had heard that getting people to show up was a big issue, and this definitely confirms it. Good luck out there.

    5. Confirms what Brett indicates – an operational problem. When I worked retail and we were understaffed due to people not coming in, it wasn’t them who faced both barrels from disgruntled customers – it was us who were there. That’s why I try to keep my cool when things don’t go right, as it’s those who are there working their tails off trying to get things done. Makes no sense being angry at them. It’s the operations people and/or management who are responsible for the logistics of the situation and are the ones who should face the heat and be held accountable (unfortunately they are often insulated from facing the wrath). Thank you for efforts and trying to keep it together!

      1. Management’s responsibility to anticipate no-shows. Especially in a location like Denver where it’s an airport in the middle of nowhere. No sympathy.

  24. Ten year employee at United start 11.00 end 27.00
    Ten year employee at Skywest start 10.00 end 13.50
    Menzies 12.00 agent 14.00 lead 18.00 supervisor 19.00 trainer and up
    Flight benefits at United free
    Flight benefits at Skywest paid by employee for company. Imposed fee.
    Menzies N/A
    Staffing United at least 4 agents per gate
    Staffing in Denver Skywest 1.5
    Staffing Menzies 1.25 but hiring
    Structure- United gates and running passenger bags to and from terminal and connections.
    Skywest- gates and running passenger bags to and from terminal and connections.
    Menzies- gates and terminating city bags.
    News pictures- bags left on ramp root cause united TOB runners.
    Pictures of mounds of bags in the mod below main terminal- root cause jackpot in United mod operation.
    Planes slow being parked- Menzies staffing issues
    Passengers waiting for terminating bags- UAX flight numbers Menzies staffing, main line flight numbers United staffing shortages.
    One more thing, Skywest did impose a pay cut on its agents averaging 2000-3000 each to insure winning that contract. Think they paid their employees back…….

  25. Kick in a couple weeks of sub freezing temps, equipment that had been completely abused by the former ground handler to the point of working equipment being scarce, and a workforce comprised of 65% newbies that probably had never been around an aircraft and on a learning curve for English let alone operational expertise… Well it’s not a way to win a championship. Still things are evolving so stay tuned as winter turns to spring…

  26. I worked for SkyWest for 2 years. I was treated like crap. The freezing weather, the under-staffing, the lack of breaks in a 14 hour shift (not even to get water in 100 degree weather.)… the rampers st SkyWest worked their butts off and the truth of that company was the harder you work, your reward is more work. The people who would walk around and hide would have 2 gates to watch in an 8 he shift while the people who actually worked got 3 gates with 3 ppl and 20 planes. The truth here is is now Simplicity has taken over and they agent even handling the bags. United took that over from skywest a while ago. As a bag lead I know the numbers we produced and i know the numbers from United. United is a union. They are all senior agents and they run and hide from work and their union defends them. As the lower company skywest ALWAYS took the unfair blame. It’s not the contracted company. United is to blame

  27. Yes, mainline UA ramp has lazy workers. Don’t all work places have slackers? They aren’t the total reason for the disaster though. I will elaborate in a bit. First, not everyone working the ramp is Full time and making A scale wages of $25 an hour. They are on a ten year pay progression and some are making less than Simplicity workers! Simplicity is also not entirely to blame. Originally Simplicity was supposed to take over all the Skywest work including their bag rooms and the below the wing jobs of loading and unloading trips. They just couldn’t find enough employees at the low pay scale WITHOUT benefits and flight privileges. I am sure many former Skywest employees would have stayed if they could continue flying and kept their medical. Even in November Simplicity was realizing hiring people with clear background checks and drug tests would be an issue. When the turnover day arrived suddenly they were SOL. Not nearly enough employees. United took over several of the job functions even though they didn’t have nearly enough manpower either. They had enough to run the operation from the good old days, but not now. Then the bad cold weather arrived and Simplicity lost workers like crazy. Many of their new people have a language barrier and so they can’t work trips with bare minimum staffing like Skywest used to do. They need escorts or English speaking coworkers with them to communicate with everyone else. So they don’t have enough people to work all the trips so arrivals and turn times suffer.
    In the meantime, UA upper management just hires overtime like mad instead of making all the people on furlough full time. Or even by hiring temporary full time. Many part timers would gladly take a few extra hours a day. Well, after weeks of crappy weather, outrageous bag loads, a flu outbreak, and quite simply, pure exhaustion, UA couldn’t hire enough overtime anymore. The rampies were literally blamed for the mess because they weren’t working enough overtime. Then mandatory overtime started. The lazy slackers hid or walked out but many others busted their butts trying to make bag connections, etc. Long story short, the connecting bag issue is a UA problem because of manpower shortages. The manpower shortages are due to covering the Simplicity manpower shortages which are from low pay and no benefits.
    I am just trying to say that the fault ultimately lies squarely on the shoulders of United management. I just don’t like seeing the rampers blamed as a group overall when many are busting their butts trying to make bags even though they are beat up, frozen, and exhausted. Many UA DEN ramp people are truly embarrassed by this debacle. We just want it to end.

  28. The starting pay offs better, by a significant amount. As I said the ramp makes $11, compared to 10.25 at OO. Leads (a position OO didn’t pay more for) are at $14, coordinators are at $16 (which I believe was $1.50 OVERRIDE at OO) and supervisors (a $1.75 override at OO) make $18. As of now I do not know the specifics of longevity pay, but they’ve already given all the ramp personnel a raise, leads were $1, and ramp $0.75. as for the specifics of a longevity raise program, I’m not sure of that yet. They don’t have that sorted out. Skywest had a rough winter last winter with transfer bags. My theory is that united held that grudge and never let it go. they stated that they want with simplicity to provide a higher competitive product, and so one would believe that that would be part of the reason.

  29. DENUA is correct.
    This issue is created by UA management by either imposing a pay cut on SkyWest workers, which led to performance and staffing issues. Then giving the contract to a new outfit (They won a contract in DTW for DL) who could not understand the challenges of the DEN ramp and could not handle it. And it bled into the UA mainline operation. UA sort of knew this was going to happen, otherwise they gave is back Customer Service (ATW) so you would have inexperienced agents facing the customer in this mess. But they took the deicing away from us and gave us the TOB work. This issue could be easily fixed. All UA workers are not topped out (10 year pay progression @ 24.60 per hour is top pay as of 1/1/15 – not including overrides and longevity – according to the contract) But DEN has furloughed employees who were involuntarily made PT. UA can bring those people back to FT. So OT is rampant throughout the whole system, including other hubs. And we are often not working 4 people to a gate. Since “Project Quality”, and UROC, we’ve been cut a whole lot and the numbers have been showing it. We are also faced with more station outsourcing as well. So the uninformed don’t know the whole picture. And this is a very NEW management group that is running things and we are still separate in many aspects of this merger. So people are blaming each other for the mess we are in. This is a very different management group driven by Wall Street and not passenger friendly. It’s about the dollar now. And the company is committed to cut 2 billion from its cost by 2017.

    Bottom line is we’re all to blame here. We (as a collective) gave up scope in the last contract, so the company is going with the outsourcing like crazy. It is up to us now to protect what is left. And starting with bringing back ALL hub work. Including Express operations. It is already done at ORD; IAH; EWR; and CLE before the dehubbing. We do that work and we do it well!! But it is not in SFO; LAX; IAD (Swissport took over from Air Wisconsin); and DEN. The next contract must contain provisions that we do all of the hub work, and the larger line stations that are still remaining and the ones that are supposed to be insourced by our people. We must hold the line in the next contract.

  30. So the media issue is real though pushed forward by main line employees on furlough wishing for full time slots, reporting to the news, even posting pictures sometimes of their own fubar, images of bags caused by the shortage of their own manpower having been left on the Tarmac missing connecting flights taking days to reach passengers, the mod pictures that could only have been sent by UAL employees as no one else has privy to their mod areas under the main terminal. Also maybe some former Skywesters posting, wishing back their flight benefit jobs when their own company truly didn’t fight for them in the first place. lets face it, express was a money loser ground operation even at the bottom tier wages they paid. The flight benefits attract some hard workers but that tier of pay attracts the slackers and the constantly workmens comp parasite that feed off a company’s bottom line. The hiders and free riders that place to heavy of a burden on the company and the smaller core of hard workers.

    Passengers are the ones hurt by the head butting. United should have worked with Skywest and demanded the increased contract go to making employees happy. It would have been a mid point between the laughable wages and United’s living standard. A place where it supported and rewarded the mid ground as once Skywest routinely beat United on performance with its younger work group. Skywest is a penny pinching company that makes huge profits but at some tipping point burned their own workers at least on the ground. Throughout its history that operation in Denver has been saddled with equipment that is cost saving and economical in warm climates and saved tons of money for Skywest profits but every winter has a been a debacle in freezing temps. Looking out the window of an express plane you always saw agents fighting the elements pushing stuck ground equipment, a lone agent fighting to pull an overloaded cart plane side for loading. Electric equipment drained and frozen.

    United does not want it, at least not 200-300 flights turned quickly by union mandated staffing levels at “A” scale pay. Not by an aging workforce more prone to injury caused by the pace and physical requirements of the job. They will lose tens of millions. They are opting for part time to fill their own current needs rather using full time furloughed. It’s a money loser.

    Enter Simplicity misjudging the Denver job market but paying better then Skywest. Hiring obviously challenged workers to fill out the numbers game to take on the project. Using the material items of the prior handler. Equipment ill designed for winter weather and needing repair. How could anyone expect them to perform better then Skywest who were also severely under staffed but at least had an employee mix with an average maybe 4-5 years of airline experience?

    Simple solution for United to shore up the situation is to offer the coveted flight benefits and the shortage of staffing goes away. Flight benefits being what they are these days the turnover will remain high as it is with all ground handlers failing below a united employee priority but at least the numbers will be there.

  31. Every time a situation like this takes action it brings the same exact two issues to the forefront in my mind. Feel free to chime in I’m good at identifying the problems but have problems seeing the solutions.

    #1 How do you keep quality workers in entry to mid management level positions?

    For someone who doesn’t work in aviation you have to understand that there is a lot expected of you and a lot of knowledge to work jobs such as ramp/gate/tkt counter/baggage claim etc. and every carrier will give you an average of $10 an hour to do so. The problem being there is a one to two year max where you hit a crossroads. Skilled and or educated workers will move up the ladder or look for different opportunities and positions in the airlines. Most other employees will reach a point when they realize that they could work at the 7-11 across the street for the same amount of money and not have to deal with commuting, constant training renewal, ” hub lifestyle ” stress and drama as well as getting worked like a dog. They eventually get pushed one day and walk off.
    I heard someone mention giving contract workers flight benefits, and although I can see that being somewhat helpful, you still have a revolving door issue at bigger airports with airlines that do offer them so… With the exception of a better wage, some type of job stability, and maybe a better family like atmosphere, how do you keep quality workers in those positions? Which brings me to my next issue.

    #2 How do you find a middle ground for success with the business side (Investors, shareholders, airline execs?)

    In my 12 years I have personally seen a struggle between the
    – Cut all, contract hard, quick quarterly return, employees as numbers, customers as revenue type mentality &
    – Be cost effective, keep our own, long term success, employees as tight knit family, and in business to make the customer happy mentality.

    Can we find a middle ground? I’ve never worked there but I see WN possible being the closet thing we have to a middle ground. I often wonder if people are just making so much money they don’t look at constant new hire training costs, contract woes such as DIA/Simplicity, constant poor customer satisfaction from low morale and how that will look in the long term. I just see people getting out with boats loads and having no ties to keeping operations alive and thriving.
    I would love to see a Costco type mentality sweep over an airline at some point I’m just not sure that will ever be a reality with the egos that play into this industry. Once again I think I see problems well but bot sure of the solutions….

    Although I’ve worked into a good situation, there are a lot of times I wish that commercial aviation didn’t run through my veins, there are so many better ways to make a living! ha

  32. One thing I noticed that has not been mentioned is the logistics of using one vendor for the AIRPLANE!!
    SW showed how that efficiency works, and CO was on board pre-merger. Look at AS. The use of one vendor to supply your primary mode of transport should not be overlooked.

  33. i try never to go to denver the gate agents for United are EVILLLLLL i have had so many issues i will drive vs go on a plane there..

  34. Maybe United should outsource management. Then they could hire a consulting firm to run reservations, and hire some first year law students to run legal. After that they could just look at other departments and see what skill-sets overlap and get those folks to multi task for the same or lower pay. 8 bucks an hour only buys you a lazy moron these days. Better pay em 8.75 to get an honest days work. It’s a suckey job, but if that’s what your qualified to do, then suck it up and do the best job you can.

    This generation today is lazy.

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