United Plans to Shut Down Call Center

United Airlines executives working on a reorganization plan to take the company out of bankruptcy will close a call center in Fort Wayne next year to cut costs.

The 80 workers at the center at Hadley Road and Indiana 14 will stop making reservations for United customers this month, though its lease doesnt expire until May. United will not renew the lease.

A vice president did go to the reservation center in Fort Wayne (Monday) to let employees know United made the difficult decision, said United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski.

United has operated the reservation center in Fort Wayne since 1997, and employees will be offered the option to relocate to other call centers, Urbanski said. She declined to comment on the cost of operating a call center in Fort Wayne compared with other cities because the information could be useful to competitors.

United will train workers to handle customer calls about baggage instead, and theyll do that for a little more than eight months, starting Sept. 1. Some of those calls will go to Fort Wayne, and others will go to other locations around the world, Urbanski said. This is part of Uniteds efforts to be more cost-effective and customer-focused in all areas of our business. Were pursuing initiatives throughout the country that will help us attain those two things.

The unit of Chicago-based UAL Corp. has lost $7 billion since filing for bankruptcy in December 2002. The nations No. 2 airline is preparing to submit a reorganization plan and disclosure statement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court next month, which will provide a blueprint for its exit from bankruptcy.

Urbanski said the number of positions available at its other call centers will depend on the companys needs next May.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press