United to hire 200 moreBy Pat Omandam
reservations center here
Hawaii has established a foothold in the lucrative call center industry.
United Airlines announced plans to open a $4.5 million state-of-the-art regional reservations center at Honolulu Airport by fall 2000.
The call center would add 200 more people to the current number of reservation agents United has in Hawaii, to 475 from 275. The expanded work force will represent a payroll of $5.5 million, said Norm Reeder, Hawaii managing director for United.
Reeder and Gov. Ben Cayetano announced the plans yesterday. The governor said the state sees the creation of call centers as a niche industry that Hawaii can market, given its location, time zone, telecommunications infrastructure and multilingual work force.
Two other call centers by Southco and Pencro already have set up here, he said.
"We're now beginning to form a critical mass," Cayetano said.
Reeder said there is a lot of competition for these call centers because they can literally be built anywhere in the world to handle telephone reservations for the airlines. For example, the airline's European reservation center is in Dublin, Ireland, one of 18 centers used by United.
Hawaii was chosen because of its huge geographic advantage and because the airline has a long-standing commitment to the state, he said.
Currently, the 275 Hawaii agents work at the former Gold Bond Building on Ala Moana. Reeder said the airline has signed a lease to renovate half of an existing building at the Ewa concourse of the airport near Rogers Boulevard. The building will house both the current and 200 new agents when it opens next fall.
Reeder said the goal for the regional center is to handle all of the South Pacific reservations. Immediate plans, however, are for the center to service North American and Hawaii regions for international and domestic calls.
Bids for the project will be released Wednesday. Plans call for a multipurpose room and an expanded conference room for large meetings, two small conference rooms and two training rooms. All rooms will be equipped with ceiling-mounted LCD projectors to display video, television or computer-generated programming.
Almost all of the 200 new hires will be local residents, but Reeder cautioned there may be some agents within the company who may relocate to Hawaii.
Overall, United employs 1,800 people in Hawaii. It recently announced adding a fifth daily flight between Los Angeles and Honolulu on Dec. 15.