Chicago-based United Airlines has a way of infuriating both its customers and its own employees. The airline is still recovering from the infamous #dragging incident in which Dr David Dao was hauled off an overbooked United Airlines flight in order to make way for deadheading flight attendants.
And now United is feeling the wrath of its own staff for plans to replace a quarterly bonus scheme with a lottery that would award prizes that the airline called “life-changing”. The quick and unified backlash from United’s flight attendants and other employees has seen United, temproarily at least, put the proposed change on ice.
Details of the staff lottery were first made public late last week when an internal memo from the airline’s president, Scott Kirby was leaked by insiders. Kirby said he intended to axe a quarterly bonus scheme with an “exciting” lottery called core4 Score Rewards.
“As we look to continue improving, we took a step back and decided to replace the quarterly operational bonus and perfect attendance programs with an exciting new rewards program called core4 Score Rewards,” Kirby wrote.
The airline described the new scheme as a “more impactful and meaningful program” for its employees who used to be eligible for a bonus if they attained perfect attendance. The average bonus per year was around $1,200.
In its place, the core4 Score Rewards would see one random staffer awarded a $100,000 cash prize each quarter. 10 employees would win a $40,000 Mercedes C Class and 20 more would receive a $20,000 payout. The smallest prize of $2,000 cash would be doled out to 1,000 staff members.
Like the old scheme, the lottery would only be open to staffers who had a perfect attendance during the quarter.
While the grand prize was significant, flight attendants were left in no doubt that the programme had been designed to reduce United’s overall bonus payout in its current Performance Rewards Program.
Ken Diaz, President of the Association of Flight Attendants at United said the decision had been made by the airline’s management despite the union telling them to “reconsider the way forward”.
Finally, it looks like Kirby has taken heed, writing to his employees in a new leaked memo:
“Dear United colleagues,
Since announcing our planned changes to the quarterly operations incentive program, we have listened carefully to the feedback and concerns you’ve expressed.
Our intention was to introduce a better, more exciting program, but we misjudged how these changes would be received by many of you.
So, we are pressing the pause button on these changes to review your feedback and consider the right way to move ahead. We will be reaching out to workgroups across the company and the changes we make will better reflect your feedback.
What United plans to do next remains to be seen. Employees, however, seem unified in their call for a bonus scheme that rewards all staff – not just a lucky few.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.