United Airlines will offer buyouts to 600 senior flight attendants as the carrier scales back service because of record jet-fuel prices.
The agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA calls for severance payments based on years of service, as well as travel benefits, UAL Corp.'s United said Friday. The union told members in a letter that the "early-out" offer is the first for United attendants since the 1980s. It affects 3.5 percent of the labor group's 17,000 members at the Chicago-based carrier.
The buyouts come after United, the world's second-largest airline, this week said it would eliminate as many as 1,100 jobs as it closes its low-fare Ted airline and grounds 70 planes. Major U.S. carriers are cutting back to help counter a 91 percent surge in fuel prices during the past year.
"The program is a completely voluntary option for members who may be considering a career change," Greg Davidowitch, the union's president at United, said in the letter to members. It provides those eligible "with a benefit that is not otherwise available" under their contract.
Attendants are eligible for the offer if they are at least 45 years old and have 15 or more years of service as an attendant with the company as of Aug. 1, United said in its statement.
The offer would provide $500 for each year of service as an attendant up to 25 years, or as much as $12,500. The payment would be in 12 equal installments starting in January.
Bidding begins on June 9 and will close on July 7. As many as 600 early-out packages will be awarded by July 15, with an effective date of Aug. 1, according to Davidowitch.
The airline said it will continue to examine "viable alternatives" for all unions represented by its employees as it scales back.