(Update: Here's what 17 United Airlines employees posted about the change on an internal United Airlines website. They're not happy.)

Maybe the top execs at United Airlines were inspired by those stories about all the people who figured out the lottery, and walked away with millions?

A new report says the airline plans to do away with quarterly employee performance bonuses--and replace them instead with random drawings for prizes like like cash, automobiles, and vacations.

It would all culminate in "a grand of prize of $100,000 awarded to one eligible employee per quarter," according to reporter Lewis Lazare of the Chicago Business Journal, who obtained a copy of the internal memo by United president Scott Kirby, spelling out the changes, and adding:

Kirby went on to say that each quarter that United reaches at least one of the performance goals outlined in the memo, there will be a drawing for the prizes listed in the memo.

Of course, only the winners of this lottery drawing would get the prizes, apparently leaving the rest of eligible employees with nothing to show for their contributions in helping United achieve its performance goals.

The reaction among United's rank and file employees was one of shock, Lazare reported, adding that "sources among United's rank and file employees late today said Kirby's memo has quickly ignited a firestorm within the employee ranks at the airline." 

The whole program is called "Core4 Score Rewards," taken from the name for Kirby's initiative to build United's reputation as "the most caring airline in a highly-competitive industry." 

It should be noted that this bonus program is not the same thing as profit-sharing, which is the program under which the company's employees received a total of $349 million last year. (That compares to $1.1 billion at Delta and $241 million at American Airlines, whose employees aren't exactly thrilled about the disparity.)

"This is the new bonus program, but it is separate from profit sharing," a United spokesperson, Maggie King, told me in an email late last night.

"While I can't comment on the value of the new program," she continued, "there are a variety of exciting new rewards (beyond what is in the Chicago Biz Journal story) that we will be giving out to employees as we continue to achieve operational success and provide great customer service."

So how much will employees miss out on for the shot at some presumably bigger  payoffs in the bonus lottery?That's hard to say.

Independent data compiled by PayScale suggested some United employees were receiving bonuses ranging between $63 and $7,589 depending on their positions.

And on FlyerTalk, conversation around the new program was skeptical.

"Scenario A: Employees A, B, C, D, and E all get $100 bonus," one commenter said. "Scenario B: Employee E randomly gets a $500 bonus and the rest get nothing. Which scenario do you think is going to cause more bitterness and discontentment?"

Published on: Mar 3, 2018
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