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United Airlines issues ground stop on plan to dole out employee bonuses by lottery

United Airlines has halted a controversial plan that would have used a lottery system to dole out employee bonuses.

In an email sent Monday to airline employees, United President Scott Kirby said  company is putting the plan on hold.

Dear United colleagues,
Since announcing our planned changes to the quarterly operations incentive program, we have listened carefully to the feedback and concerns you’ve expressed.
Our intention was to introduce a better, more exciting program, but we misjudged how these changes would be received by many of you.
So, we are pressing the pause button on these changes to review your feedback and consider the right way to move ahead. We will be reaching out to work groups across the company and the changes we make will better reflect your feedback.

The new plan, unveiled last week, drew immediate scorn from employees.

Kirby had announced the airline would be replacing its quarterly bonus system with a lottery system. Instead of awarding qualified employees bonuses when the carrier met certain targets, eligible employees would be entered into quarterly drawings where they could win luxury cars, vacation packages or a grant prize of $100,000.

Kirby outlined the new program in a memo obtained by the Chicago Business Journal.

“As we look to continue improving, we took a step back and decided to replace the quarterly operational bonus and perfect attendance programs with an exciting new rewards program called ‘core4 Score Rewards’,” the memo said.

The Business Journal reported earlier that the Core4 program was part of a company-wide effort by Kirby to grow United’s reputation as an airline that cares. The initiative comes just months before the first anniversary of an incident in which a passenger was violently dragged off a United flight to help make room for crew members. Video of the fracas sent the airline’s stock price tumbling and forced CEO Oscar Munoz to issue a public apology to the passenger, David Dao. The airline also reached a cash settlement with Dao. The amount was kept confidential.

Inc. Magazine chronicled some of the reaction to the lottery plan.

“If I wanted to play in a lottery, I would just go my local 7/11. I recommend United management reconsider this morale killing program,” wrote one employee, the captain on an A-320.

“This sounds like a game show with cash prizes and lets see who gets the spin of the wheel. This doesn’t sound like a plan that even attempts to show value, respect and appreciation for the work of its employees,” responded a flight attendant.

The Twitterverse was equally appalled: