United backs down on bonus lottery after employee backlash

United backs down on bonus lottery after employee backlash

In another note to employees, Kirby wrote: "Our intention was to introduce a better, more exciting program, but we misjudged how these changes would be received by many of you".

Fierce criticism caused United Airlines to put the brakes on a lottery system meant to replace its current employee bonus program.

The lottery, which the airline announced on Friday, would have paid $100,000 to one lucky employee selected at random, and smaller bonuses of $2,000 or $5,000 to about 1,300 more.

United Airlines employees riled against the lottery program, which they noticed would have saved the airline millions of dollars compared to the bonus structure that has been in place for years.

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Last week, United Airlines issued an internal memo notifying employees of its plans to drop the performance-based bonuses for a new program called "core4 Score Rewards".

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.

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 ideal attendance.

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 goal of rewarding employees who make this reliability possible does not make sense.

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The proposed lottery system - which offered prizes ranging from a Mercedes sedan to a one-person $100k payout - would've only affected 1,361 employees, and cost the company around $18m. "It was unilaterally determined by management", Ken Diaz, president of United's chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants, said in a letter to his membership.

Based on employee reactions, the program wasn't inspired by United's staff needs and requests.

Since announcing our planned changes to the quarterly operations incentive program, we have listened carefully to the feedback and concerns you've expressed. A United spokesperson did not say how many people complained about the change, but it was a "significant enough number".

Kirby said Monday that United is now halting these changes to consider employee feedback, though he did not specify when the airline expects to have a decision about their next move.

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