Houston: The third-largest North American carrier United Airlines (UAL) has decide to close down its call centre in India and move back about 165 jobs to the US.
The carrier told workers on Tuesday that it would stop publishing its customer relations phone number, which will be turned off altogether. Beginning in April, the workers will add customer-relations duties, which involve issues or complaints after travel.
United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said the airline is able to respond better to customers who write, since they often include more detail, making it possible to provide a more specific response. “We clearly have the deep industry expertise to help our guests navigate through their options.”
United also said starting this month, it will begin urging customers to use e-mail or letters instead of calling its customer-relations phone number for complaints or compliments. The line will be shut off at the end of April.
Phone reservations agents in Chicago and Honolulu will be cross-trained to respond to written customer feedback too. That will keep 165 jobs in those two centres, she said. No changes are planned at United’s third reservation centre in Detroit, which will continue to take phone calls from United’s largest customers.
Urbanski said the rise of Internet booking means it now makes sense to have reservation agents also handle after-flight calls from customers. She said the new arrangement would be “cost-neutral” versus having the calls answered in India.
However, the move reverses United’s decision to ship the positions to India, a step Urbanski said was taken “about two or three years ago”. United said in January it was cutting 1,000 more jobs, pushing the total to 9,000 by year’s end, to help stem net losses at parent UAL that totaled $5.35 billion in 2008.
“We have an opportunity to preserve and create jobs for our employees while sharpening our focus on how we respond to our guests when they contact us,” Barbara Higgins, vice president for worldwide contact centres, said in the notice to workers. The memo did not specify how United’s payroll would be affected.