United Airlines workers with perfect attendance for six months may be eligible to win a free car under a new employee perk that takes effect Jan. 1.
The morale-boosting effort is one of the first public campaigns by parent United Continental Holdings Inc. to stamp Continental Airlines’ culture on its larger merger partner. During the past decade, Continental has given away more than 180 vehicles to its employees.
“Perfect attendance helps United provide consistent, reliable service to customers, and it also reduces our costs,” said United CEO Jeff Smisek, who prior to the merger headed Continental.
Under the latest iteration of the Perfect Attendance Plan, which will be open to both United and Continental employees, Chicago-based United will give away 11 new cars annually and pay all taxes associated with each vehicle. Employees with perfect attendance over a six-month stretch will also be eligible to win either $50 in cash, a $50 donation to charity or 5,000 frequent flier miles.
Cultural issues have been a top priority for Smisek since the Oct. 1 merger, and he’s criss-crossed the sprawling carrier to meet with employees. Smisek is attempting to minimize merger distractions and implant Continental’s customer-focused culture at United, difficult tasks given its sheer size as the world’s largest carrier.
United and Continental pilot union leaders, meanwhile, say they are united — in their resolve to push Smisek’s team to boost pilot pay and reduce the carrier’s dependence on outsourcing through ongoing contract talks. Gaining a joint collective bargaining agreement is a crucial step towards fully integrating the two airlines, which must operate separately until United Continental gains a single operating certificate from federal authorities.
The two pilot groups are mindful of the leverage they hold and have resolved differences over pay, which were made public earlier this fall, according to an internal union communiqué.
Meanwhile, Continental’s union leaders and United executives are meeting in Los Angeles with an arbitrator to try to resolve a disagreement over the carrier’s plans to introduce 70-jet United Express flights to Continental’s hubs, Jan. 1. Pilot officials claim the new flights violate outsourcing provisions in Continental pilot contracts. United officials say the flights are permissible.