United Airlines is outsourcing more than 600 jobs at 12 airports around the country to cut costs while adding jobs at other airports.
The airline said Monday that it notified employees of the decision, which had been expected since May. They include ticket and gate agents and baggage handlers at airports served mostly by smaller United Express flights.
"This is a difficult decision, but we need to ensure that our costs are competitive," said United spokeswoman Christen David.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said that it negotiated seniority protection for many of the workers if they relocate, and that job losses will be limited.
Still, union spokesman James Carlson called the outsourcing a "race to the bottom. How can you compete with vendors paying $12 an hour?" He said United's top pay for the work is about $24 an hour.
United will hire other companies to handle the work at airports in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Buffalo, New York; Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Detroit; El Paso, Texas; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Wichita, Kansas; Pensacola, Florida; and Salt Lake City.
Under the union contract, the airline will take back about 400 jobs that had been outsourced at Denver, Honolulu, Phoenix, and Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia.
Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc. lost $609 million in the first quarter while rivals Delta and American made money. It employs about 87,000 workers overall, according to FactSet.