United to Cut 272 DIA Baggage Handlers

United Airlines will eliminate 272 baggage handlers in Denver as part of the 7,000 jobs it plans to cut across its system.

The carrier informed affected workers over the past week, telling the final group on Wednesday. The cuts, which take effect Sept. 7, represent about 6 percent of its local employee base.

"This is a difficult but necessary step as a result of continued high fuel costs," said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy.

The reductions come on top of 150 local positions the company cut last month, including 100 baggage handlers and 50 customer service agents, according to information United previously provided to state officials. It also will furlough 17 pilots in Denver this fall.

United has laid out plans to cut at least 439 positions — or 10 percent of its local employee base — this year. That will give it a work force here of just more than 5,000.

More layoffs and furloughs likely are on the horizon.

United previously announced moves to eliminate roughly 7,000 positions in phases by the end of next year through furloughs, layoffs and attrition. The carrier has not said how many positions it will eliminate in Denver, but it plans to end several dozen flights here later this year.

United is Denver International Airport's largest airline with a 50 percent share of the market.

Its main competitor here, Frontier Airlines, also is grounding planes and cutting jobs. The Denver-based airline, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, had informed state officials of plans to eliminate at least 569 local positions. That will bring the total layoff number for both Frontier and United to 1,000 local workers, and counting.

Both carriers are dealing with an unprecedented rise in fuel costs that has hammered the industry. While airlines have jacked up fares this year, the increases haven't been enough to offset fuel costs. So carriers are looking at ways to lower expenses, with much of their efforts focused on fleet and labor reductions.

Excluding noncash charges, United lost $151 million in the second quarter, which typically is one of the most profitable for the industry.