United considering staffing changes in Kona


Kona-based United Airlines employees are disputing the company’s official statement about upcoming personnel changes at Kona International Airport.

An employee, who asked not to be named, told West Hawaii Today this week United employees would be replaced by contract workers. They were told this would be effective in June.

Christen David, a spokeswoman for the airline, acknowledged the company was considering changes to staffing in Kona.

“We haven’t made any decisions, but we must continually look for new opportunities to run a more efficient and financially sustainable business,” David said in an email. “Last week we notified employees that we are looking at competitive market rates to see whether we can continue to keep above-the-wing and below-the-wing work at Kona within United. United currently pays the same labor rates in all markets, unlike our major competitors, whose rates at smaller stations are in line with local market rates. This difference in pay puts us at a competitive disadvantage and we must look for ways to ensure our cost structure is more in line with other airlines serving the markets.”

Any changes could affect as many as 63 employees in Kona, David added.

The United employee who spoke with West Hawaii Today said some employees were already training their replacements.

The employee said not all of United’s workers here would be replaced, although the majority would be. The company was offering employees the chance to transfer to another United station, depending on seniority. The problem with that, the employee said, was that workers might not have enough seniority to transfer to Honolulu, or even a more desirable mainland location, and that employees who live here, have family here and own homes here might not wish to transfer at all.