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United offers flight attendants buyout packages of up to $100,000 each

Flight attendant Tonya Johnson walks the aisles of United Airlines' 787 Dreamliner at LAX during tours of the aircraft in 2012. United has offered buyout packages of up to $100,000 primarily to veteran flight attendants.
(Christina House / For The Times)

In hopes of cutting its staffing budget, United Airlines announced plans Monday to offer veteran flight attendants early buyout packages of up to $100,000 each.

United, which has been struggling to reconcile union contracts since its merger with Continental Airlines in 2010, hopes to reduce the ranks of its 23,000 flight attendants by about 2,000.

The buyout package has the support of the flight attendants union.

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The airline has also offered to recall 1,450 flight attendants who left the airline or were laid off this year.

The airline expects to offer the buyout primarily to senior flight attendants while most of the former employees who will be allowed to return are attendants with less experience, according to airline officials.

“Employee morale is critical. This early out package and end to furloughs and other staffing disruptions is reached outside of contract negotiations,” the Assn. of Flight Attendants said in a statement.

The Chicago-based airline -- one of the largest in the world -- has reached contract deals with nearly every employee group except for flight attendants and technicians.

United officials said the buyout packages would help the airline and the flight attendants union reach a labor agreement.

“Recalling furloughed flight attendants and aligning our staffing to match our flying schedule will further facilitate the company and AFA reaching a joint collective bargaining agreement,” said Mike Bonds, executive vice president for human resources and labor relations at United. “It’s another positive step in what has become a productive relationship with AFA.”

The median annual salary for a flight attendant in the U.S. is $37,240, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But experienced flight attendants who fly on international flights on major carriers can earn much more with overtime and bonuses.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.


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