United Airlines flight attendants were not happy with proposed changes to their bonus system.
United Airlines flight attendants were not happy with proposed changes to their bonus system.

Flight attendants’ fury over note

LAST week, a group of airline employees were handed a note from their boss that left them fuming.

United Airlines president Scott Kirby informed his more than 80,000 employees that their quarterly performance bonuses of up to $386 would be eliminated. Instead, the crew would be placed in a lottery which would see less than 2 per cent actually gain anything.

Luxury cars, holidays and a grand prize of $128,000 were among the new rewards on offer, with the move set to save the airline nearly $400 million a year.

Such fury followed the memo, that Mr Kirby has since announced the changes have been put "on pause" while they are reviewed.

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

United Airlines crew weren't happy about this note.
United Airlines crew weren't happy about this note.

One of the ways the flight attendants shared their outrage was via a petition on change.org, which included a letter to management detailing a long list of grievances such as being forced to work while sick and the tiny planes making their jobs very difficult.

"It is disappointing and quite frankly, downright disgusting that our caring for the company is not reciprocal," the employee wrote.

The letter received more than 1000 supporters in just three hours before being taken down. However, travel website ViewFromTheWing has published it in full:

Dear United Management Team:

First of all, thank you for all that you do. While we appreciate your work, we have some concerns. Some of my colleagues and I are feeling some frustration recently, after the recent (and quite frankly egregious) alteration to our quarterly on-time bonus program and everything leading up to it.

First we signed a contract and they didn't offer retro pay or a signing bonus. Shortly after signing our contract, they announced the hiring of Scott Kirby and gave him a generous signing bonus, and bragged about how wonderful it is to have him on board. We rolled our eyes a little, but kept doing our jobs with a smile.

Next we were introduced to the "quick turn", and we got reprimanded for complying with Scott's fantastic new speedy-boarding ideal, and boarded the plane in 22 minutes, beating the 35-minute mark. But we still had a "documented conversation", because that wasn't good enough. It's not the weather's fault. It's the frontline worker's fault that the plane pushed late. Never mind the fact that we could barely board the plane when there were bar carts and cleaners and bags of garbage blocking our way. We still did our jobs. And we did our jobs quickly. And we still smiled.

After that, they implemented a "point system" that restricted our flexibility with sick calls. We still do our jobs.

(And for that matter, we probably do our jobs when we aren't feeling great, because we can't afford to accrue points. And now, we need to not be sick in order to be eligible for the new awards program. This is disconcerting. Flu season is in full force and we do see colleagues coming to work sick already, when they should be at home in bed.)


United Airlines crew, not involved in writing the letter.
United Airlines crew, not involved in writing the letter.

We watched our industry friends at Jet Blue, Southwest, American, Alaska and Virgin America get $1000 tax cut bonuses. When we questioned why we too can't have them we were told "United already had a tax break". Oh yeah? So did American. Why did they get the bonus? Because they care about their employees? That's why. Novel idea.

Then we saw a low profit-sharing percentage, which made us feel precisely like Clark Griswold felt when awarded the jelly of the month club membership. We made quadruple that amount three years ago in profit sharing. But we still keep coming to work and doing our jobs.

We are watching them strip amenities domestically, dispose of our galley and our workspace on the 757, remove lavatories, and add seats, creating more passengers and less room to move. But we still do our service with a smile and a friendly way about us.

Internationally we received a memo stating that staffing would be reduced to match our competitors. We have been working off of two different contracts for well over a year and it is not only confusing, but inevitably frustrating not knowing what has and has not yet been implemented.

On the legacy-CO side of the contract, we are working without duty rigs that our colleagues receive. Also, if we are not at top-out pay, on the co-side, we receive our raises a month behind our colleagues with the same seniority. (We get ours the date we came online; they get theirs the date they started training.)

We watched an optional program "bonus bucks" become a mandatory program. We now announce and pedal card membership through the aisle. And we do it with a smile. The cheapened domestic plane has never felt so cheap, as we push this credit card on unsuspecting customers, who really don't want to be bothered.

Last, they took away our quarterly incentive bonuses, and changed it to a deplorable new system that only rewards an elite few. (No surprise, since they are good at only awarding an "elite few" - aka the upper management, and not the entire population of frontline workers.)

Above all, we are still grateful to have jobs, and we still somehow manage to squeak by with this company. We do a thankless job. We cheerfully greet our customers, without so much as a response. We assist a nervous flyer who has never stepped foot on a plane before. We hold the hand of an unaccompanied minor, deplaning to meet his estranged family. We cry with the "Make a Wish Foundation" children, eagerly flying to MCO to fulfil their dreams. We walk an elderly couple to their next gate ... yet, our paychecks are wrong lately, and we wait for months, we go through red tape, we are handed off to multiple departments, sent on a wild-goose chase, to find out where our missing money is.

For many of us, caring for customers is innate. We back up the company, we learn and we promote and we follow United's values. We do what we can to appease the management and do our jobs adequately (and beyond). Most of us have a background in customer service. We come from caring professions. Nurses, counsellors, teachers and even clergy. We do what they want us to do. We stand behind United. It is disappointing and quite frankly, downright disgusting that our caring for the company is not reciprocal.

Thank you very much for taking our concerns seriously and for reading this letter.


United Airlines Flight Attendants


The petition from change.org has been removed.
The petition from change.org has been removed.

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