United Airlines Might Not Replace Bonuses With a Lottery After All

United Airlines

"Our intention was to introduce a better, more exciting program, but we misjudged how these changes would be received by many of you", President Scott Kirby said in a message to employees.

United Airlines appears to have had a change of heart about its decision to replace quarterly employee bonuses with a lottery system.

United Airlines is rethinking a plan to replace its modest monthly bonuses with a lottery system that would have offered large rewards to a few workers at random.

The new bonus program is being met with outrage by employees.

The previously proposed bonus system would have offered employees lottery drawings for cash prizes, luxury cars and vacation packages instead of the now approved quarterly performance bonuses.

The dust-up over the bonus lottery showed that United is struggling to overcome a legacy of poor labor relations since its 2010 merger with Continental Airlines.

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One of the comments made by unhappy employees focused on the timeliness that United Airlines has been able to achieve over the last two years; as the most reliable airline operating in the United States, switching to a lottery system for the objective of rewarding employees who make this reliability possible does not make sense.

"The employee group that would have been eligible for those bonuses was much larger" than that of the lottery system, Taylor Garland, spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, said in a phone interview.

These were posted on the internal United Airlines employee website, Flying Together. Other employees would have gotten prizes including 50 vacation packages or 10 Mercedes. "While we were surprised by some of the components of the program, there is no part of the reaction by flight attendants and other employees that surprises us". In one fell swoop, it is crushed again.

Although, the quarterly bonus is separate from the airline's profit-sharing payouts, according to Inc.com, the news seems particularly jarring after Southwest Airlines and American Airlines announced in January that employees will receive a $1,000 bonus, thanks to projected savings from the new tax bill.

According to United's latest earnings report, employees earned approximately $30 million in incentive payments for achieving operations performance goals in the fourth quarter ending in December, and approximately $87 million in earned bonuses in 2017. Last year, the company paid out $87m in such rewards. We will be reaching out to workgroups across the company and the changes we make will better reflect your feedback.

Now United says it was a 'misjudgement'.


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