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United Voluntary Separation to Leave (VSL) Program

Date: January 23, 2021

United announced a new program, they refer to as a Voluntary Separation to Leave (VSL) Program. This is a corporate wide program that supplements any entitlements under the applicable collective bargaining agreements. As a result, programs specific to each work group were developed, including one for Flight Attendants.  The Flight Attendant program is focus on those aged 45 with more than 15 years of service and has two options, the VSL-A and the VSL-B. 

From the onset, it is important to understand two foundational concepts the company has communicated.  First, “there will be no mid-program enhancements or extensions offered for these VSL options….” Said another way, what you see is what you get.  Don’t expect changes or further enhancements.

Secondly, this not an Early Out Program.  This is a voluntary separation to leave program. There are no aspects of this program that will apply to the participants in the prior VSP programs.

The Program was not negotiated with AFA.  It is company-wide program that applies to all front-line work groups.  In the aftermath of the previous VSP offerings, AFA was very vocal with management in expressing the view of Members as to what the prior program offerings lacked.  And while there were no specific discussions over the design of the program, AFA was not shy in expressing our view that prior programs did not meet the needs of the Membership.

Information about the VSL offering is centralized and available from Help Hub.  The following is an overview of our understanding of the program.  If you have additional questions, we encourage you to read the company communications available from Help Hub.

To qualify for the Flight Attendant VSL you must be:

  • Based in the U.S., GUM or LHR, projected to be an employee after April 1, 2021, including those projected to be on furlough, and who have not already received a notice of separation.
  • Age 45+ with 15 or more years of service (as of March 31, 2021).
  • Active or on leave status (including those returning from furlough).

A comparison of the two programs with differences in bold/italics:

VSL-A Program (“benefits focused” program)

  • Pre-separation leave begins March 1, 2021
  • 33% of base wage, paid as severance, through the end of 2021 (to a maximum of $20,000)
    • Paid as part of the regular 1st and 16th pay process with 50% of the 71 hours paid each period.
    • Considered pensionable and these severance payments will be eligible for all retirement account contributions (CARP, IAM NPP & defined contribution 401(k)
  • Tax-free funds to use for eligible healthcare expenses in Retiree Health Account (RHA): $125,000 to be credited January 1, 2022 in a notational account (May be us  for copays, medical premiums, etc.  Must be used by December 31, 2031).
  • Continuing medical coverage at active rates through December 31, 2021 / Access to United sponsored pre/post 65 retiree medical coverage (or COBRA for 18 months)
  • Active travel privileges through 12/31/26 – then retiree pass travel/lifetime retiree-lite pass travel on January 1, 2027 based on years of service as of the separation date.

VSL-B Program (“pay and leave focused” program)

  • Pre-separation leave begins March 1, 2021
  • 100% of base wage through August 31, 2022 (to a maximum of $112,500)
    • Paid as severance on regular 1st and 16th paychecks with 50% of 71 hours each pay period
    • Considered pensionable and these severance payments will be eligible for all retirement account contributions (CARP, IAM NPP & defined contribution 401(k)
  • No tax-free credit from United into a Retiree Health Account (RHA)
  • Continuing medical coverage at active rates through August 31, 2022 / Access to United sponsored pre/post 65 retiree medical coverage (or COBRA for 18 months)
  • Active travel privileges through 12/31/26 – then retiree pass travel/lifetime retiree-lite pass travel on January 1, 2027

For pay purpose consideration, your monthly pay is based on 71-hours at your current play rate. In addition to the items listed in the program, you are eligible for any/all retirement benefits and health & welfare plans in our Contract.  You will continue to accrue Benefits and Vesting service during the pre-separation phase for purposes of CARP & IAM NPP and retiree medical if you’re eligible, as well as retiree travel benefits.

Over the course of the next few days as we receive additional information from management, we will be working to develop an AFA Question and Answer document specific to the questions about how these programs interact with our negotiated health & welfare benefits as well as retirement.

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