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United tops on-time arrivals, rewards employees $32 million

by Tara Lachapelle
Feb 12, 2010

UNITED arrivals

United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp. based in Chicago, was No. 1 in on-time performance for domestic scheduled flights in 2009 among America's five largest global carriers, and No. 3 overall, according to a report released Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

United, whose largest hub is O’Hare International Airport, announced that it had rewarded its frontline employees during the year with payouts each month that the airline ranked first or second in on-time performance. The amount totaled $32 million for year, or $825 per employee.

According to the airline, eligible employees received $100 each time the company ranked first for a given month, and $65 if it ranked second.

United’s frontline employees are those who are union-represented, largely with customer-facing operations and functions, said United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson. He said there are about 41,000 frontline employees.

Out of the 19 carriers ranked in the report, United was third with 77.32 percent of on-time arrivals, behind Hawaiian Airlines with 87.02 percent and Alaska Airlines with 84.02 percent.

“This is the direct result of the work we did in 2009 through good weather and bad, at each airport, and across every department and work group,” United President John Tague said in Friday’s press release.

According to Johnson, the five largest carriers, as defined by revenue, available seat miles or passengers flown, are United, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways. Of the five, US Airways ranked No. 1 in 2008, but got bumped to third for 2009.

United’s press release called its improvement in performance “significant” considering that three of the airline’s largest hubs—O’Hare, Denver International Airport and San Francisco International Airport—are often impacted by weather disruptions.

Despite the blizzard that hit the mid-Atlantic and Northeast States at the start of the 2009 Christmas season, which heavily affected Washington Dulles International Airport, United finished the year in the No. 1 position among the five largest carriers.

On-time performance is calculated by the total number of flights minus the number of late flights, canceled flights and diverted flights, said David Smallen, a representative from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Johnson said on-time arrivals are flights that arrive within 14 minutes of the published arrival time.

“Our regional carriers also had a strong on-time performance result for 2009, with 80 percent of United Express flights arriving on time,” Johnson said.

United said it operates approximately 3,300 flights per day on United and United Express.