United Airlines ditches plan to replace bonuses with lottery

United Airlines appears to have had a change of heart about its decision to replace quarterly employee bonuses with a lottery system. On Monday, United is "pressing the pause button" as it considers employee feedback, Kirby said.

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".

Kirby said the airline would reach out to employee work groups and changes made would "better reflect your feedback".

United Airlines is putting its new, lottery-based bonus system for employees on hold.

United Airlines President Scott Kirby had reportedly sent out a company memo last week announcing that the company would be dropping its quarterly performance bonuses.

The previously proposed bonus system would have offered employees lottery drawings for cash prizes, luxury cars and vacation packages instead of the now approved quarterly performance bonuses. A single employee would receive a grand prize of $100,000 under the plan, media reports said.

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"Why did they get the bonus?"

United, which has more than 80,000 employees, did not respond to specific questions about either the lottery program or the current bonus program. Now, however, it looks like quarterly bonuses are being merged into the program. "We believe that this new program will build excitement and a sense of accomplishment as we continue to set all-time operational records that result in an experience that our customers value".

After the memo detailing the new lottery program was released last week, a petition was created on Change.org deriding the new system. "Completely against what the word United means", wrote a flight attendant on the airline employees' private Facebook page.

That program rewards all eligible employees with up to $125 each month for on-time departures, on-time arrivals and other performance-related measures. Employee annoyance at management has festered in recent months over a decision not to award one-time cash bonuses in the wake of lucrative changes to the US tax code. Other employees stated that the lottery system does not appeal to them and could thus opt out of participating simply by not doing a good job.

Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly, said he couldn't recall another case where an airline swapped regular cash bonuses for a lottery system, "which I think is the problem", he said. It's quite telling about the people who thought this up.

While $300 might not go a long way, "employees don't want to lose something that makes a difference", he said.