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Association of Flight Attendants-CWA United Master Executive Council

New United - New Opportunities

Date: October 1, 2010
Type: MEC President Letter

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today is an historic day for our airline as the financial merger transaction closes and the new United Airlines is established. Our future is bright as this merger provides great opportunity for us. The true benefit of a merger is realized through an operational integration and Flight Attendants are a key part of that process and the future success of United Airlines. Airline management has great incentive to work with labor to achieve operational integration and our Union is prepared to protect and advance our careers every step of the way as the world’s largest airline can also become the world’s best airline.

At the heart of any successful merger is collaboration to bring the best qualities of each formerly separate entity together. As Union Members we know what can be accomplished when we stand together and bring out the best in each other. The success of United Airlines and our participation in that success will be directly related to our Solidarity. With great opportunity often comes great challenge. The hard work is still before us. There is no doubt that we are ready to take on any challenge in light of these opportunities to advance our careers.

Let us understand the process and take each step together as it comes. To date we have taken part in the first phase of a merger with critical oversight by participating in Congressional hearings and conducting numerous transitional discussions with management. During this first phase we also sought an immediate cooperative agreement with the current collective bargaining representative of Continental Flight Attendants to capitalize on the leverage this merger creates by working together as soon as possible. Today, despite the close of the corporate transaction there will still be two separate airlines until a number of important issues are resolved. 

As integration begins with the second phase of the merger, passengers and employees won’t see many immediate changes as a result of the deal closing. Some signage may change and we will start to see new airplane livery, but both United and Continental Airlines will largely operate as they do now. Each airline will run its own customer-service and marketing activities with separate workforces as work intensifies to bring the companies together. 

By 2013 the third and final phase of the merger will take shape after a complete integration of the two airlines. Our new Company expects to generate up to $900 million more a year in revenue than the two generated separately and realize up to $300 million in cost savings. The goal is a large, well-run company that generates about $30 billion in annual revenue by carrying about 144 million passengers to 370 destinations in 59 nations. This holds promise for all at the new United Airlines.

The integration phase of this merger is not going to be that simple. There are huge labor and operational components that will have to be harmonized in order for those efficiencies to be obtained. While it makes analytical sense, integration can only be accomplished by dedication and commitment to a successful outcome that recognizes the hard work of Flight Attendants and other front line workers. Integrating United and Continental airlines – bringing together the very different operating styles, workforces, fleets and corporate cultures - in a way that works for our community and the passengers we serve will be an enormous undertaking.

As the new airline adopts the United name, our Company is targeting early 2011 to start blending passenger-service operations. Shared check-in kiosks and airport signs will appear next year in a process called “Customer Day One.” Other operational changes such as considerable training and joint websites probably won’t occur until about 2012, when United expects to receive a Single Operating Certificate from the FAA.

We begin the integration phase today and already there have been new management appointments, and a good amount of work intended to begin alignment of policies and practices for both employees and passengers. An election for Union representation, seniority integration, more negotiations and the issuance of a Single Operating certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration are all critical and important milestones to be accomplished before the practical effects of the merger are realized. It will take another 12 to 18 months before an operational integration will take shape in earnest. 

For us, seniority integration and Contract negotiations are on the horizon. Before either of these issues are resolved our community will make a major decision for our future. In accordance with the regulations overseen by the National Mediation Board (NMB) we will choose a Collective Bargaining representative.This will be a seminal moment for our community and our future rests upon the outcome of this election.

The process is fairly straightforward; however, it will be complicated by competing interests between our community of Flight Attendants and the representative of the Continental Flight Attendants who seeks to challenge our right to retain dedicated Flight Attendant representation at the new United Airlines.

During the course of a lifetime, most of us only make a few truly major decisions. These might include whether or not to change jobs, what college to attend, who to marry, how many children to have, which home to buy, when to retire, and with whom shall we align our interests, hopes and aspirations in friendship. These comprise some of the most important and difficult decisions we ever make. Yet there are other decisions we make that also hold major consequence. For example, we elect representatives to our local, state and federal government. Often we align our decision-making with those representatives who we share like values and have a proven track record, those who are responsive and understanding. Electing a collective bargaining representative is another major decision for our future.

Prospects for the eventual integration of the two airlines' Flight Attendants will improve significantly upon the conclusion of the requisite representation election. The combined United/Continental route network offers clear opportunities for the post-merger Flight Attendants. The depth and breadth of the combined route network, together with our focus on improved pay, benefits and working conditions will put our airline in a strong position to deepen its global reach and improved prospects for everyone.

United Airlines Flight Attendants made this day possible with our hard work and sacrifice. For an airline merger to be truly successful, it has to be a partnership benefiting employees, management, shareholders, and passengers. In the best interests of this merger we have an opportunity to change the current dynamics in our negotiations. It is the right time for our airline to make a fresh start by finishing the business of shared sacrifice and shared reward. Recognize the opportunity before us as we work to set our airline apart to lead the industry. This is the time for United Airlines Flight Attendants to bring home the industry’s leading Flight Attendant Contract.

We anticipate a positive future ahead for United Airlines and our community of Flight Attendants. As we move forward and welcome Continental Flight Attendants we will continue to explore the range of opportunities for our community throughout the merger - careful to preserve our rights so as to be able to take advantage of all options available to us. Together we can negotiate not only the goals for pay, benefits and work rule improvements defined by you but also those that are reflective of the potential associated with a world-class global airline. Our Solidarity will lead us to our future success.

In Solidarity,

Greg Davidowitch, President
United Master Executive Council

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