Showing posts with label United Airlines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label United Airlines. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Details of the United Airlines Flight Attendant 'Early Out' Program

United AirlinesLast week, United Airlines announced plans to retire 100 aircraft, end its low-fare Ted service, and cut over 1,000 jobs. In conjunction with those plans, the airline announced that it will offer "a one-time opportunity for eligible flight attendants to voluntarily separate from the company." Known as the Early Out Program, the voluntary separations will be made available for up to 600 senior United flight attendants.

The United Airlines announcement about the Early Out Program summarizes:

Flight attendants who are at least 45 years old and have at least 15 years of flight attendant service with the company as of August 1, 2008 will be eligible to participate. Participants will be entitled to severance payments based on years of service and retiree travel benefits.
Sounds potentially attractive on the surface, but is this a good deal for senior flight attendants or not? The answer is, "It depends."

Mostly it depends on whether the flight attendant has another source of income to rely on, and access to affordable health insurance coverage.

The present Early Out Program is based on a collective bargaining agreement reached between United Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing United's flight attendants. The details of the Early Out Program have been made available on the public section of the website of the United Master Executive Council (MEC) of AFA:
  • Eligibility
    • Flight attendants aged 45 or greater, and with at least 15 years service are eligible for the Early Out.

    • Flight attendants aged 55 or greater, and with at least 15 years service are eligible for retirement, plus the Early Out.

  • Early Out Severance Pay will consist of $500 for each year of service as a Flight Attendant up to 25 years ($12,500 cap). Total pay is distributed in 12 equal installments beginning January 2009.
    • Example: 18 years of Flight Attendant service equals $9000. This would be paid out at $750 per month, before taxes, for 12 months.

  • Travel Benefits - retiree travel pass benefits provided for all Early Out participants.

  • Life Insurance will be provided only for those who enter retirement at the time of the Early Out.

  • Medical Insurance will be provided for those Early Out participants who also retire, but not to those who are too young to do so. The latter will be able "to purchase COBRA for continued medical coverage for 18 months at the full cost of the insurance and administration."
United Airlines flight attendants who meet the age and length of service criteria for the Early Out Program would have been employed by the airline prior to and during the carrier's recent bankruptcy period. That means that they had their company pension plans terminated in 2005. At that time, United Airlines defaulted on its pension obligations, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) took over pensions for workers at the airline, including the flight attendants.

Federal regulations limit the amount of pension payments the PBGC can make -- an amount far less than the original pensions -- and by law, that amount is further reduced if the worker retires early, i.e., before age 65. As a result, many flight attendants at United have since felt that they had no practical choice but to continue working until their 65th birthdays. To do otherwise would put them in serious financial straits.

In light of that situation, it seems that the current Early Out Program will be attractive mostly to those who already have a substantial second income, or whose spouses' or partners' income and health care benefits are sufficient to support them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Man indicted for in-flight assault on United Airlines flight attendant

United Airlines Boeing 747A man who allegedly assaulted a United Airlines flight attendant in April has been indicted by a federal grand jury, and was to be arraigned today. The incident happened on April 23, 2008 on United Airlines Flight UAL862 while the aircraft, a Boeing 747-400, was en route from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.

According to an FBI press release, dated May 22, 2008:

James Allen Cameron, 49, of Anaheim, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday [May 20] and he surrendered today [May 22]. Cameron allegedly had to be restrained in his seat by passengers and crew members during the flight.

A grand jury in Los Angeles returned an indictment on May 20th which charged Cameron with one count of Interference with a Flight Crew, a violation of Title 49, Section 46504, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison, and one count of assault, a violation of Title 49, Section 113 (a) (4), which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.

Cameron was afforded an initial appearance in U.S. District Court today [May 22] and posted $50,000 bond. An arraignment has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 27 th.

Under Title 49, as well as Title 18, of the U.S. Code, the FBI has primary jurisdiction for investigations into criminal acts or other violations of the federal code that occur on all aircraft arriving to the United States (foreign and domestic carriers), as well as U.S. carriers flying outbound from the United States.

This case was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Customs Border Protection and the Los Angeles Airport Police Department, and will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office.
Although it was unclear what had provoked the alleged assault, several news articles about the incident reported that Mr. Cameron was intoxicated during the altercation and had to be "wrestled down" by a several crew members and passengers, after which he was duct-taped to his seat. He was arrested upon arrival at LAX.

[Image Source]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Several injured in severe turbulence incident on United Airlines DEN-PHX flight

United Airlines A320Earlier this week, a United Airlines flight encountered severe turbulence while en route from Denver to Phoenix. Several people on board were injured, including at least one flight attendant.

The incident happened on the evening of Tuesday, April 15, 2008 on United Flight UAL 1427, an Airbus A320 aircraft. According to news reports, the turbulence began about 30 minutes after the aircraft departed Denver International Airport. The aircraft turned back to Denver where it landed safely.

The FAA's preliminary report about this turbulence incident provides few details, however descriptions of what happened have appeared in several news media reports. An article on IN-Forum News included an account of the scene given by Mr. Keith Holland, who was a passenger on the flight:

...When the Airbus A320 hit cruising speed, the seat-belt sign was turned off, flight attendants started serving drinks and Holland began working on his laptop.

Then there was a bump caused by turbulence, which seemed normal at first, Holland said.

But when he looked out the window from his aisle seat, Holland saw the plane tilted to the right – “the wing was tipped to the ground. I could see the ground.”

The beverage cart bounced around and the drinks and cups spilled out, he said. One flight attendant was thrown to the ceiling and passengers’ personal belongings – including Holland’s laptop – flew into the air.

After the laptop hit the overhead compartment, “I pulled it to my chest and held it hard,” which caused some sore ribs, he said. “The flight attendant was bouncing along like a ping-pong ball.”
Mr. Holland added that the flight attendant who hit the ceiling recovered enough to continue working on the way back to Denver, but that another flight attendant required medical attention. He also observed a passenger with "a bloody face" who, he said, "needed paramedics to help her off the plane."

An article about the turbulence incident on the website of Denver television channel CBS 4 mentioned that one passenger and one flight attendant who were injured were hospitalized. The CBS 4 article includes a video clip that includes comments from a passenger who was on board UAL Flight 1427.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Flight attendant hiring freeze at United Airlines?

United Airlines logoEarlier this month when I was researching an article about the profit-sharing distribution to United Airlines flight attendants, I noticed that the carrier was continuing to hire new cabin crew. I mentioned it here, and posted a link to the flight attendant careers page on the airline's website.

Then I began to hear a rumor that United had suspended recruitment of new flight attendants. The rumor caught me by surprise, so I decided to find out if it was true. I'm sorry to report that this is indeed the case, according to information published on the website run by the United Airlines Master Executive Council (MEC) of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing United's flight attendants.

News of the hiring freeze is contained in a letter to United's AFA membership from Greg Davidowitch, President of the United MEC. Dated March 18, 2008, the letter addresses plans by the carrier to downsize its fleet, and discusses the potential impact of this move on United's flight attendants. Quoting from Mr. Dawidowitch's letter:

Undoubtedly, there will be an impact on our flying as a result of potential staffing decisions and which markets United may cut as a result of the downsizing of the fleet. At this time we can confirm that based upon our discussions with management there are no plans for a furlough as a result of today's announcement. United will implement a hiring freeze for the newest Members of our Flight Attendant community for classes that were originally scheduled to begin after March 31, 2008. There are no plans to release Flight Attendants who are currently in new hire training and we look forward to welcoming our newest flying partners on the line.
I trust that Mr. Dawidowitch is in a position to know what he is talking about, so there you have it. Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

United Airlines flight attendants get profit sharing distribution

United AirlinesThis week, flight attendants at United Airlines flight are receiving profit-sharing payments related to the airline's 2007 performance. United's US-based flight attendants can expect to receive a profit-sharing payment of about $1,200, before withholdings, for every $30,000 of eligible earnings, according to a news release issued by the airline.

This is the second year United provided profit sharing to its employees and the benefit is part of their union contracts. Under the terms of their union's contract, which was negotiated during the airline's bankruptcy, United's flight attendants receive their profit-sharing award in the form of a company contribution to their 401(k) accounts.

United Airlines flight attendants are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA).

By the way, United is continuing to recruit new flight attendants. Click here for more information on becoming a United Airlines flight attendant, and an online application.

[Illustration Source]

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

United flight attendants injured by turbulence

A number of people were reported to have been injured early on the morning of Monday, January 21, 2008 when a United Airlines flight encountered turbulence. United Flight UA 1028, a B-757 aircraft, was at FL370 en route from Los Angeles to Chicago when the incident occurred, according to a preliminary incident report posted this morning on the FAA website. The aircraft diverted to Denver, where it landed safely at around 03:00 AM local time.

The FAA report states that three flight attendants sustained "minor" injuries. There was no damage to the aircraft, which later resumed its flight to Chicago without further incident.

In contrast to the information posted by the FAA, several news media stories about the incident reported that up to 10 people had been injured. The flight was said to have had 180 passengers and seven crew members on board.

UPDATE January 24, 2008: Here's a link to a first person account of this incident by a passenger who was on board UA FLight 1028 that night, from the Denver Post.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Disruptive passenger day at PDX?

Portland International Airport (PDX)Yesterday, November 15, must have been disruptive passenger day at Portland International Airport (PDX). Police at PDX had to meet two separate flights due to disruptive passenger incidents.

US Airways Flight 1473 had been en route to Las Vegas from Seattle when a couple of passengers reportedly attempted to join the 'mile high club' in a lavatory. The A320 aircraft diverted to Portland after the passengers argued with crew over the incident.

From a KPTV news report:

"The people across the aisle from us were fooling around in their seats and they decided to go to the bathroom and fool around and they threatened the flight attendant," said passenger Jessica Smith.

US Airways avoided confirming that the couple was fooling around, but did say they were arguing with the crew.

A PDX spokesperson said the passengers were neither cited nor arrested, but they were left in Portland, Ore.

The plane continued on to Vegas, where it was scheduled for a 7:39 p.m. landing.
The second incident took place on United Airlines Flight 371 while it was en route from Chicago to Portland. News reports say that a passenger named James Terry was arrested by FBI agents and Port of Portland officers when the flight arrived at PDX.

A news story on KPTV says:
Agents said Terry was en route from Chicago to Portland on United Airlines flight 371 when flight attendants, believing he was intoxicated, denied him alcohol about an hour and a half into the flight.

The flight attendants told officials that Terry became agitated and they moved him to the rear of the plane, where he tried to open the rear door and touch a female flight attendant.

Agents said the flight crew used handcuffs to restrain Terry for the duration of the flight.
Following his arrest at the airport, Mr. Terry was taken to Multnomah County Detention Center.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

UAL forms passenger incident review committee

United Airline logoUnited Airlines is creating an internal committee to review incidents in which passengers are physically abusive toward employees. According to an article in the Denver Post, United's new "passenger incident review committee" formalizes the process of investigating incidents in which passengers are physically abusive or threaten physical harm of United employees and are an "ongoing safety risk."

The process involves determining how the company responds to the passenger - such as limiting future travel on United - and legal and emotional support for the affected employee. It also includes a system of tracking the incidents.

The Association of Flight Attendants pressed United to start the program. Flight attendants are the most likely to receive abuse from passengers, as they spend the most time with each customer and do not have access to authorities in flight.

"We have seen an increase in these incidents throughout the industry," said Sara Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants at United. "The biggest frustration is delays and cancellations, and that has the added problem of people sitting at airports and going to a bar and drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a leading cause of air-rage incidents."

More passengers with fewer airline employees tending to passengers, the frustrations of traveling, fewer amenities and packed planes also increase "the opportunity for passengers to show their unreasonable side," Nelson said.
AFA also would like flight attendants to be provided with additional training on how to de-escalate conflicts. Sounds like a very good idea to me.