United Airlines pauses lottery for bonuses after employees rebel online

Ann Santiago
March 7, 2018

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".

Following swift backlash from employees, United Airlines has scrapped its plans to replace quarterly employee bonuses with a lottery-based employee reward system.

A new staff bonus reward program implemented by United Airlines was quickly canned after employees sharply criticized it.

United did not outline what changes it would seek to make to its bonus program.

The system would have replaced quarterly, performance-based bonuses and rewards for ideal attendance with a lottery-based system, where eligible employees would be entered into a drawing for a variety of prizes if the company hit one of its performance goals during a calendar quarter. It seems that negative publicity is not leaving United Airlines no matter what they do.

According to a report at Business Insider, which has seen the memo announcing the program, the maximum number of employees who will receive a bonus payout during a quarter will be 1,351, of which 73% will receive a $2,000 cash prize.

Inc.com also quoted a study by PayScale that posited United employees have been receiving bonuses ranging anywhere from $63 to $7,589, which could be in jeopardy once the lottery-style system is put into place.

These were posted on the internal United Airlines employee website, Flying Together.


"I can't imagine driving the Mercedes into the employee lot while everyone around me that worked just as hard, or harder got nothing". In one fell swoop, it is crushed again.

Prior to Friday's announcement, all eligible United employees could receive up to about $300 per quarter, or $1,500 per year, a United spokesperson said.

The carrier employs about 88,000 people around the world. The report did not break out bonuses for executives and other workers.

"Since announcing our planned changes to the quarterly operations incentive program, we have listened carefully to the feedback and concerns you've expressed", Kirby wrote.

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.

Instead, the airline will be reaching out to employee work groups to make changes that "better reflect [employee] feedback".

Now United says it was a 'misjudgement'.

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