United Airlines: You’re paying big fares, the company’s brass is getting $130 million incentive payouts

The Chicago Tribune is reporting a new row that’s sprung up at United Airlines, where union workers are questioning a corporate plan that involves setting aside 8 million shares of United stock worth $130 million to fund a new incentive program aimed at company executives.

United’s board is expected to vote on the matter at its regular meeting in June. The announcement of the plan comes at a time of record fare prices, passenger fees and soaring fuel costs that have airlines industrywide looking for ways to trim expenses.

For United workers, the deal hits closer to home. They’re still upset over the airline doling out $150 million in stock benefits to company brass as the airline emerged out of bankruptcy in 2006.

The new incentive plan is to range from 3 to 5 years and is meant to both drive recruitment of high level executives and reward performance goals of those already in office.

Greg Davidowitch, leader of the airline’s flight attendants union, told the Tribune: “This is just another money grab.”

The ire of United’s workers reflects a broader attitude within the industry toward corporate pay and benefits, since many carriers’ employees took big salary hits following 9/11 as the industry spiraled into a steep downturn.

Others question the logic of announcing such a spending plan with the company in serious talks with U.S. Airways to merge operations, in a move seen to counter the recent merger of Delta and Northwest.