Airline Employee Forced to Close Petition Complaining About Incentive Program Changes
A member of a flight crew for United Airlines drafted a petition called Make United Airlines Great Again pertaining to the drastic overhaul of an incentive program — as per a memorandum issued to them by the president of the company on Employee Appreciation Day — at Change.org in an effort to urge the chief executive officer and management of the airline to reconsider its implementation…
Airline Employee Forced to Close Petition Complaining About Incentive Program Changes
Employees of United Continental Holdings Incorporated — which is the parent company of United Airlines — were surprised to learn of a new overhauled incentive program as announced by Scott Kirby through which instead of earning a bonus of up to a maximum of $300.00 per quarter, they instead can win more valuable prizes via a “lottery” of sorts; and they do not have a choice.
The complete text of the petition — prior to its removal — was as follows:
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. Nevermind 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.)
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 Griswald felt when awarded the jelly of the month club membership. We made quadruple that amount 3 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 [sic] 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 fulfill 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, counselors, 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
Writen by Laurie Vesalo, the voice behind all who have signed.
After 1,139 fellow employees signed the petition to support it in expression of their frustration pertaining to the new incentive policy, the petition was suddenly closed and amended with the following two simple sentences only hours after it was posted yesterday, Saturday, March 3, 2018:
I was told to take down this petition. Great job everyone but I’m sorry.
Whether or not Laurie Vesalo is a pseudonym — or remain employed at United Airlines — is unknown.
“I’ve heard from dozens of employees over the last 24 hours and the response is unanimous: they are angry. There is not one single employee I’ve talked to (even one that is usually a United cheerleader…) that is in favor of this change”, according to this article written by Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly. “It’s a hard-hitting letter for sure. And while she may not have followed protocol in airing her grievances in such a public venue, I empathize with her concerns and share in her frustration.”
The New Incentive Program: core4 Score Rewards
According to this article which was also written by Matthew Klint, the new incentive program is called core4; and each quarter, 1,361 employees will win valuable prizes — but compare that to the now-former incentive program: “United has around 86,000 employees. Say each employee received a $300 bonus for United’s operational performance. That’s $25,800,000. I’d imagine a smaller subset than total employees were eligible for this, but for conservative estimates let’s say at least half of that or $12,900,000.”
If you look at the chart below, you will see that the total approximate retail value of the prizes in the “lottery” every quarter adds up to $4,700,000.00…
core4 Score Rewards Prizes
Winners per Quarter
Choice of Mercedes-Benz C-Class or $40,000.00
|Choice of Platinum United Vacations package or $20,000.00||
Choice of Gold United Vacations package or $10,000.00
…thus saving the airline at least $8,200,000.00 per quarter — or $32,800,00.00 per year. For the fourth quarter of 2017, United Airlines reported a net income of $580 million.
Is saving only slightly greater than 1.41 percent of net income worth toying with the morale of a significant portion of a workforce?
Varying versions of an old saying include either “treating your employees as well as you treat your customers” and “treating your employees better than you treat your customers” under the theory that when employees are treated well, they will then automatically treat your customers as well.
Of course, exceptions to that dictum exist; but the corollary is assumed that if you treat your employees poorly, then your customers will also be treated poorly.
Liliana Castillo of Humble, Texas commented on the petition: “A good business starts with its employees. A customer will NEVER love a company, until its employees love it first!!!!”
I am no airline executive; but despite earning a Master of Business Administration degree, I have to admit that sometimes I do not understand how business is currently conducted, as it seems to defy the basic principles of how human beings should generally treat each other. In the travel industry alone, deception is rampant in the form of mandatory resort fees and basic economy airfares as only two of many examples. Reneging on promotions whose terms have clearly been publicized is becoming less unusual; and treating customers unfairly — such as being dragged off of an airplane — has become more commonplace.
Logic would dictate that the companies would suffer as a result — and they may initially feel the pain which resulted from poor decisions — yet not only do they return to business as usual; but they also seem to return to egregiously pushing the boundaries yet again in breaching acceptable common decency.
I keep reading repeatedly that these companies will suffer once the next recession occurs; and even I have written variations of that battle cry — but that would require both customers and employees to remember the nefarious actions of these companies and have the temerity to hold them accountable when they seem to have no other choice.
We shall see…
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.