United to Axe Flights & Jobs at Houston Intercontinental

United Airlines to cut 10 Percent Capacity at Houston IAH | Commercial Aviation and Airline News

Cuts Response to Approved Hobby International Flights

In a letter to employees United Airlines has announced they will be cutting 10% of their planned capacity at Houston Intercontinental (IAH), which may result in the loss of 1,300 jobs.  This move is in response to Southwest Airlines receiving the go-ahead to construct a small international terminal at Houston Hobby Airport (HOU).  The Houston City Council voted 16 to 1 to approve the building of a Federal Inspection Station at Hobby to allow for international arrivals.

United also announced the planned Houston to Auckland route, to be operated by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, will also be cut as a result of reduced feed to Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

Both Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker and Houston Airport System Director Mario Diaz strongly support the building of an international arrivals facility at Houston Hobby.  United, which operates a hub at the significantly larger Houston Intercontinental Airport is upset with the move and believes the competition at the much smaller Hobby Airport will significantly harm profitability on a variety of routes.

According to United, “The Mayor’s and Council’s decision reverses 43 years of aviation policy that has made Bush Intercontinental one of the world’s leading gateways.”

Many believe United has been using their presence at Intercontinental Airport as a political tool to block expansion by rival airline Southwest, the primary operator at Hobby Airport, along with their wholly owned subsidiary AirTran.   Other individuals familiar with the situation believe United is using this as an excuse to downsize at Intercontinental, as well as gain concessions from the city, after the merger of United and Continental.

Despite the announced cuts, the letter states Houston Intercontinental will remain one of United Airlines’ strongest hubs with the carrier competing vigorously for Houston customers with all carriers serving both airports.

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