United backs down on bonus lottery after employee backlash

Posted March 07, 2018

The company is "pressing the pause button" on any changes to the bonuses, President Scott Kirby said Monday in a message to employees, just three days after announcing the new approach.

Hundreds of United employees signed a Change.org petition calling for the reinstatement of bonuses - and the airline was skewered for trying to peddle the lottery as a step up in worker compensation when, in reality, it was a cost-saving measure.

"We announced a new internal program based on United meeting certain operational and dependability metrics as a way of offering meaningful rewards to our employees", a company spokesman said last week.

According to the Chicago Business Journal, which first broke the news, a lottery bonus system called "core4 Score Rewards" would instead be put in place.

The short-lived concept had United saying that so long as United hit at least one performance goal, there would be a quarterly drawing for prizes including luxury cars, vacation packages or cash from two grand to $40,000, with one employee getting a grand prize of $100,000, the Chicago journal reported.

A discussion on the airline's internal forum, obtained by the travel website The Points Guy, included hundreds of comments about the lottery.

United Airlines employees were told on Friday that each quarter, one of them would receive a $100,000 prize-and the news reportedly landed with a thud.

"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. In one fell swoop, it is crushed again.

"We are pressing the pause button on these changes to review your feedback and consider the right way to move ahead".

The carrier employs about 88,000 people around the world.

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. The report did not break out bonuses for executives and other workers. We will be reaching out to workgroups across the company and the changes we make will better reflect your feedback. A United spokesperson would not say exactly how many employees complained about the change, but did say that it was a "significant enough number".