United to Add 100 Workers in Denver

United Airlines is hiring up to 100 ramp workers and customer service agents in Denver, providing yet another boost to the region's growing aviation industry.

The added staff will help United better accommodate its passengers and operate more efficiently at its gates, said Mike Scanlan, general manager of the carrier's Denver operations. Some of the openings are for new positions, while others are the result of attrition, Scanlan said.

"We're trying to increase support for our customers," Scanlan said. "This will strengthen what we can provide during peak operational hours."

Ramp workers, who handle a variety of responsibilities, including moving baggage to and from aircraft, and customer service positions start at about $20,000 a year in salary, according to the International Association of Machinists, which represents United ground workers. Base pay tops out at about $40,000 to $42,000 a year for workers with the highest levels of seniority at the company.

The fact that United is hiring for ramp and customer service positions at Denver International Airport, rather than automating or outsourcing the work, is a "step in the right direction," said Joe Tiberi, a spokesman for the IAM.

"The best way to improve the customer experience is to have enough knowledgable employees on hand to address any situation that may arise," Tiberi said. "You can't send people to kiosks when things get bad."

The job growth comes amid record passenger traffic at DIA, which is benefiting from increased competition and a slew of new flights. That, along with the emergence of two companies making small jets, has helped bolster the metro area's aviation industry. Continental Airlines also is moving a handful of mechanics to Denver and is considering adding several dozen more.

United, a unit of Chicago-based UAL Corp., is the largest airline at DIA and employs more than 5,000 in the region.

The company cut tens of thousands of positions - including several thousand in Denver - during its three-year bankruptcy. But it has started hiring again as it regains its financial footing. This year, for instance, it's bringing on 1,700 flight attendants on top of 1,400 in 2006, although the latest round won't include any new positions in Denver.

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