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United Airlines to consolidate flight training in Denver, creating 250 jobs

Written by on June 24, 2015

Denver Business Journal — United Airlines will consolidate its two flight-training facilities at its existing Denver location, adding more than 250 jobs to the local economy and strengthening the relationship between the city and Denver International Airport’s largest carrier.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he and DIA CEO Kim Day learned late Tuesday thatUnited Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) had chosen to grow its 400-person Denver flight-training center rather than consolidate pilot training at its Houston facility or build a new complex in Chicago.

 

United’s roughly 12,000 pilots fly into the existing facilities to train in classrooms and on multimillion-dollar flight simulators. Hancock on Wednesday estimated the consolidated facility will produce 69,000 nights a year of business travel in the Denver area when fully operational in late 2017 — boosting not only existing hotels and restaurants around the Stapleton-area complex but giving a jump-start to the mayor’s vision of growing airport-related businesses around DIA to emulateother such “aerotropolis” projects that have become major economic engines for other cities.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for the city of Denver,” Hancock said at a news conference at City Hall. “For us to come out on top, I think, says a lot about the vision for this region.”

It also marks another major step in the growing partnership between Denver and United.

Howard Attarian, United senior vice president of flight operations, wrote in an email to employees Wednesday that the company chose Denver for three major reasons:

It was the most cost-effective option of the three. United spokesman Luke Punzenberger said the airline will save more than $80 million in upfront capital expenses by growing in Denver. Still the company will spend more than $40 million to renovate and upgrade its existing facility, Hancock noted.

Consolidation in Denver allows the single facility to be fully operational two years sooner than originally planned, with some staff moves planned as early as the end of this year.

Locating here minimizes disruption to the airline’s operations. The existing 23-acre campus already features more than 400,000 square feet of space in six buildings and will grow to accommodate what eventually will be 28 flight simulators and 24 classrooms, company officials said.

“We will extensively renovate the existing Denver facility to house a premier center that will support our training needs now and into the future,” Attarian wrote.

Denver, meanwhile, will pay the company as much as $4 million if it reaches certain goals in terms of the number of jobs created, the amount of investment United makes in the rehabilitation of its facility and the amount the company invests in its simulators, said Paul Washington, executive director of the city’s office of economic development.


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