United Offers $100,000 Buyouts to Flight Attendants

United Airlines, the only major U.S. carrier to post a quarterly loss this year, is offering its flight attendants buyouts of as much as $100,000 as it seeks to rein in costs.

Employees who accept the early-exit plan will be eligible for lump-sum payments, said a spokeswoman, Megan McCarthy, who declined to disclose the formula needed to reach the maximum. United also is recalling 1,450 furloughed attendants, most of whom took voluntary leave one to two years ago, she said.

United, a unit of United Continental Holdings Inc., is hoping for at least 2,100 takers from an attendants workforce of more than 23,000 after some senior employees sought the offer, McCarthy said. Attendants back from furlough also will help United bolster airports that were too thinly staffed, she said.

“The cost is less to have a flight attendant with less experience versus one that has more,” McCarthy said.

The Association of Flight Attendants was involved in the buyout discussions and jointly issued news of it yesterday. United still has separate collective bargaining units for its two camps of flight attendants, those who originally worked for United and those who worked for Continental Airlines before the merger. The buyout was offered to members of both groups, in seniority order. The two parties are in negotiations for a joint contract.

United, based in Chicago, has generally underperformed its U.S.-based airline rivals since completing its merger with Continental Airlines in 2010. It had a net loss of $609 million in the first quarter, the only U.S. carrier to post a shortfall in the period, and then reported net income of $789 million in the second quarter.

Shares of United have gained 31 percent this year, compared with a 43 percent rise for Delta Air Lines Inc., a 47 percent jump for American Airlines Group Inc. and an increase of 80 percent for Southwest Airlines Co.

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