United Airlines will give all of its active employees a $1,000 bonus as a mark of its gratitude for their hard work throughout the pandemic, chief executive Scott Kirby announced on Monday, acknowledging that it had been a rough time for airline workers.
“Our people went through a tough time during the pandemic and truthfully they were part of the global humanitarian response,” Kirby noted. “It’s been a rough year for them, lots of stress, lots of strain more so than most companies and they just did a great job.”
United normally recognizes 100 of its hardest working employees each year but Kirby said it was extending the United 100 award to every single employee. A plane has even been painted in a special livery in dedication to United’s workforce.
With around 80,000 employees, the gesture will cost United at least $80 million but flight attendants believe the airline will want something in return.
“Scott is known as a ‘numbers guy,’ as we’ve said many times,” noted the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) in a memo to its members at United.
“While it’s important to keep in mind that the decision to meaningfully recognize all active United employees is significant, within this context it must also be understood, one way or another, there is a financial benefit to United Airlines for doing so.
While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s something we must always keep in mind,” the memo continued.
The union has just started new contract negotiations with the airline and AFA says it sees the $1,000 bonus as a “down payment” towards what it hopes will be an “industry-leading Contract”.
While United recognizes employees have worked hard throughout the pandemic, the union is obviously aware that airline leadership will be pushing for the very best deal they can get.
“Scott and his management team make decisions based on promoting the health and success of our airline,” the memo continued.
Not wanting to downplay the significance of United’s gesture, the union said it was “truly appreciative of this action and this statement is not intended to kick water on a sandcastle.”
Flight attendants at American Airlines are in the midst of contract negotiations and talks are proving tough in some areas – not least hotel and transport guarantees that the union is pushing to improve.
AA flight attendants say they had been left without a roof over their heads during layovers on a number of occasions when the outsourced hotel booking desk failed to deliver. Some flight attendants have been forced to sleep in the airport and pay for their own Uber rides.
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.