United Reacts to Southwest's Houston Hobby Expansion with 1,300 Job Cuts

Hot on the heels of Southwest’s big victory – winning the right to begin international flights out of Houston’s Hobby Airport – comes an announcement from United Airlines that starting this fall, it will cut 1,300 jobs at Houston’s other airport, George Bush Intercontinental.

Air travel analyst Rick Seaney framed the situation this way: “When politics, capitalism and consumerism collide there are always winners and losers, unfortunately the economy isn’t growing enough now to minimize the casualties,” he said.

United Fought Southwest Expansion

Chicago-based United had vigorously fought Southwest’s expansion plans, and according to media reports, it blames new international competition from Southwest on its decision to drop an upcoming route between Houston and Auckland (which would have marked the debut of United’s first 787 Dreamliner plane). Plus it could spell doom for other current money-losing flights that might have turned profitable with more international growth.

United: No More Early Boarding for Families

Two Airports, Divided Traffic

United’s other big complaint is that two airports competing for overseas flights will make it difficult for travelers making connections between domestic and international travel. Southwest says its international flights will probably begin in 2015.

However, some suggest United’s complaints have more to do with finding a handy target to blame for ongoing problems, such as declining traffic on certain routes out of Houston.

Meanwhile in Dallas, American Airlines Cuts More Jobs

Was Airline’s Move from Houston to Chicago a Game-Changer?

Others suggest, it may be more personal. When United took over Houston-based Continental, it closed the latter’s headquarters in favor of longtime United hub Chicago. According to Businessweek, Houston Mayor Annise Parker was asked if the city council would have said no to Southwest’s Hobby expansion if United was still based in her city. Her response: “The discussion might have been very different.”

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Published: June 1, 2012