A United Express airplane lifts off from a runway at Denver International Airport in 2007. Hundreds of baggage handlers and ticket agents for SkyWest Airlines could lose their jobs after being notified that the services they provide will be taken over by a subcontractor. SkyWest contracts with United Airlines as United Express, and performs ground handling for Delta Airlines. Both operate out of the Medford airport. - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Local SkyWest workers could be out of a job

Baggage handlers and ticket agents for SkyWest Airlines wonder what will become of their jobs under a cost-cutting effort at 16 airports throughout the U.S., including Medford.

SkyWest notified 20 full- and part-time ground handlers in Medford recently that the services they provide would be taken over by a subcontractor.

Hundreds of Skywest's ground-handling crews will be looking for work locally and at 15 other airports, including Eugene and Portland.

Medford airport Director Bern Case said it will be difficult for employees of SkyWest, who are worried they could see reductions in their salaries and benefits if they get rehired by a new outfit.

"Some of the employees are not too thrilled," he said. "On a personal side, it's tough."

Passengers at the Medford airport likely won't notice a major difference in service levels, nor are any flights being lost, Case said. He said he anticipates the changeover will take place sometime in August.

SkyWest flies as United Express and contracts with United Airlines, which has decided to transition to other subcontractors at 44 airports. SkyWest also performs ground handling for Delta Airlines, and flies as Delta Connection. Both operate out of the Medford airport.

Ground handlers take care of baggage, ticketing and gate services.

With the loss of the United contract, Skywest employees might have the option of being hired by the new subcontractor or being transferred within the company, said Marissa Snow, Skywest spokeswoman.

She said current employees will be given assistance looking for other jobs. "We're working to minimize the impact to our people," she said.

Snow said she didn't have a precise number of employees affected, but said the loss of the United contract will affect hundreds of employees out of a total SkyWest workforce of 11,100.

Employees in Medford should be able to find other opportunities, though Snow said she didn't know the pay and benefits package that would be offered by the new subcontractor.

Snow said SkyWest personnel will continue to fly United Express flights from Medford and other airports.

"The partnership remains strong," she said.

Mike Trevino, a spokesman for United, said the performance of the SkyWest employees wasn't an issue.

His company sent out a request for proposals looking for a more cost-effective ground-handling operation while maintaining the current level of service.

He said the changes in the ground-handling operations shouldn't have any impact on passengers. The same number of flights and services will continue to be offered, he said.

Trevino said former SkyWest employees might be able to get a new job with the new subcontractor. He said the name of the new subcontractor hasn't been released.

Trevino said United will take several months to transition to the ground-handling subcontractors at airports.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email

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