No United is NOT ‘Reversing Course’ on Employee Lottery

United is going to pause to consider employee feedback on its place to replace quarterly bonuses with a much less expensive lottery program.

The plan they announced on Friday would save the airline perhaps $30 million per year by replacing bonuses of up to $300 per quarter per employee with a lottery offering big prizes to 1-2% of employees.

CNBC says United is shelving the lottery program. Matthew says they’re ‘reversing course’. They’re not. Here’s the United memo to employees:

Dear United colleagues,

Since announcing our planned changes to the quarterly operations incentive program, we have listened carefully to the feedback and concerns you’ve expressed.

Our intention was to introduce a better, more exciting program, but we misjudged how these changes would be received by many of you.

So, we are pressing the pause button on these changes to review your feedback and consider the right way to move ahead. We will be reaching out to work groups across the company, and the changes we make will better reflect your feedback.


There is no suggestion that they’re going to reverse course and reinstate the bonus program. Instead they still say that they are going to make changes. The bonus program remains in jeopardy. It’s just that the ultimate replacement will ‘better reflect’ employee feedback.

Unquestionably employees were unhappy seeing their pay axed by up to $1200 per year. Sending out a statement that is being interpreted as shelving the plan helps them. The next step will matter more.

And management needs to seriously question themselves if they misjudged how slashing bonuses would be taken by employees (if they thought their employees were guillible enough to buy the lottery with fewer dollars paid out as an improvement).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, United has said it is “suspending” any program changes. While the reprise may be short-lived, this is certainly reversing course.

  2. What’s happening here is being over-reported. United isn’t saying they’re shelving the lottery, or that they’re sticking with quarterly bonuses. They’re just saying they’re going to have conversations and will incorporate employee feedback into their new incentive system.

  3. @Matt, “suspending” isn’t reversing. It’s delaying implementation. Watch United come back and say the listened to everyone and will keep the planned program with a few minor changes (one sick day allowed per quarter, another hundred $1k prizes, etc). Kirby has proven again that his skills are limited to excel spreadsheets.

  4. Lol yeah I am just sure Scott really wanted to offer a better program for the United employees, saving tons of money was just a side benefit. About a year ago I was seriously contemplating switching to United but hung on with AA. This is further confirmation I made the right decision.

  5. I say let the Execs lead the way and cut back on their own bonuses, Fat Chance that will ever happen

    Sorry Matt unfortunately I think you’re reading alot more into what UA said, then what they meant. Could be they will do both cut back abit on the Q bonus and have a lottery but give less away, Then down the road cut the bonuses again

    You would think these idiots would have learnt from when AA got the rack and file to agree to tons of give back only to award themselves tremendous bonuses. Every $1 that UA saves will increase the execs bonuses, so once again we see where the top level doesnt give 2 cents about the rank and file

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