United Continental may outsource 2,000 jobs in 28 US airports

United Continental Holdings is planning to outsource 2,000 jobs in smaller US airports, in a move towards reaching its goal of cutting $2bn in annual costs.

The decision of the Chicago-based airline is likely to affect jobs in 28 airports, including Atlanta, Miami and St Louis.

The company is yet to take a decision on the airports and the number of employees to be affected by the move.

United has informed its employees and their union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW).

"Any workers who might be displaced would have the right to take jobs elsewhere in the airline, depending on their seniority, and United would have to pay for their moves."

Check-in, baggage-handling and customer service jobs are expected to be among the functions being considered to be outsourced.

The airline has previously outsourced jobs at 18 US airports. In 2013, it outsourced nearly 500 jobs at six airports in the US and three in Canada. In July last year, 635 jobs in 12 US airports were moved to third-party vendors.

IAMAW district president Rich Delaney told the Wall Street Journal that the union was aware that a lot of the smaller airports' employees were at risk of having their jobs contracted out.

The union plans to talk to the company to see if some jobs can be saved by cutting costs elsewhere.

"At the very least, any workers who might be displaced would have the right to take jobs elsewhere in the airline, depending on their seniority, and United would have to pay for their moves," Delaney said.

United agreed to keep jobs in 30 of its busiest airports safe, under an agreement signed with the union in 2013. The agreement also has a provision for negotiations between the company and the union at the local level with regards to jobs in smaller airports.

In 2013, around 200 workers at three small airports in Hawaii agreed to accept concessions to retain their jobs, WSJ reported.