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United Continental posts 4Q loss as traffic falls

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm •  Published: January 24, 2013

Travelers avoided United Airlines last year, leaving it with a fourth-quarter loss as it continues to pay for its stumbles in absorbing Continental.

United Continental Holdings Inc. on Thursday reported a $620 million loss for the quarter as passenger traffic dropped 3.2 percent.

The loss was driven by $408 million in spending on the integration for things such as training and repainting airplanes. Superstorm Sandy hurt profits by $85 million, too.

"We are absolutely not satisfied with the financial results we produced last year," said Jeff Smisek, the compay's chairman, president, and CEO.

United, the world's biggest airline, said it will cut 600 administrative and management positions via voluntary buyouts and layoffs. Last month it cut four senior executives, out of a pool of about 50.

Many of the cuts are expected to happen in Chicago. That's where United is based and where it has one of its biggest hubs at O'Hare International Airport. The company employs about 84,000 people worldwide.

United's switch to a single passenger-information system last year caused problems with its website and frustrated some of its most lucrative customers when they couldn't get upgrades to first-class seats. Some of its customer service workers at airports struggled with new software on their computers, creating long lines.

Those problems drove potential customers away.

United wants to put those issues behind it and says the technology issues have been resolved solved.

But in an admission that United still needs to improve its interactions with travelers, Smisek said the airline has begun extra customer service training for ticket and gate agents, call center workers, and flight attendants worldwide. Leaders are getting the training this month, and workers worldwide will get the training by the end of this year, the CEO said. The company is labeling its new customer service standards, "It's our job."

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