United Airlines (search), the No. 2 U.S. air carrier that is operating under bankruptcy protection, is coming under fire for a costly baggage handling system at its hub in Denver.

The $250 million system was paid for up front by Denver International Airport (search), but United, which has lost $9 billion over the last four years, is expected to pay $60 million per year to house and maintain the system. There are 20 years left on the agreement.

The contraption was heralded as state of the art when it began operating 10 years ago, but now most of it is unused, many parts have been scrapped and passengers have mixed feelings about its utility.

"They put a very expensive system to do a very simple job and we're paying a price for it," said Mike Boyd, who runs the aviation research firm Boyd Group (search).

Since United is struggling to stay afloat, it would love to stop using the money-wasting system, but the airline issued a statement saying, "We are trying to determine where we can be more cost effective, and that includes keeping the baggage system."

Attorneys for United Airlines and Denver International Airport say the only way the airline could stop its payments would be to emerge from bankruptcy and then file for Chapter 11 yet again.

Click on the box near the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Carol McKinley.