United-Continental Merger Lands Airline Executives a Big Pay Raise Considering all the bellyaching one hears from airline industry executives about how difficult it is to run a profitable carrier, it would seem their efforts might go unrewarded -- at least monetarily. Not so at the new United Continental Holdings (UAL) where CEO Jeffrey Smisek stands to pull in a cool $1 million ($975,000, to be exact) in salary to head up the recently merged company.

According to corporate watchdog Footnoted, Smisek's salary is nearly two-thirds more than the $590,400 he made last year as head of Continental Airlines, which along with United Airlines' parent UAL came together last week to form the new airline. And Smisek's income will be 33% higher than that of Lawrence Kellner, his predecessor at the old UAL.

It isn't only the CEO of UAL, as management refers to the new company, who's raking in much more money these days thanks to the merger. Zane Rowe, Continental's former chief financial officer and now CFO at UAL, is seeing his salary rise to $750,000 from $383,908 last year -- nearly double. James Compton, who served as Continental's chief marketing officer, also saw his salary nearly double to $750,000 as UAL's "chief revenue officer," noted Footnoted, which pulled the new salary information from a Form 8-K filed late Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

These executives and others are also eligible for bonuses in excess of $1 million should the company meet certain financial targets. Smisek has an annual bonus target of $1.46 million -- plus another $8.4 million long-term incentive award, and a $4 million "one-time merger integration incentive" based on yet-to-be-determined integration goals.

And what of the UAL's old CEO, Glenn Tilton? He retired from the position to become chairman of the post-merger company. In doing so, Footnoted said, he gave up his $850,000 salary, but in return gets a $600,000 annual retainer along with $150,000 in yearly restricted-stock awards.

One can only hope that such salary inflation works its way down the corporate ladder. Then, maybe, just maybe, travelers might get a smile from an airline employee -- if not an on-board meal or a pillow.

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It is really tough, but I always try to keep satisfaction in mind whenever I am working with a client. I work at a outsourced CFO services company, and I really like it a lot. Sometimes it is really hard to keep the smile in my face, but I always try to remind myself that another person and client is a lot more important than me having a bad day. I do wish that more companies try to offer the same good service that we all remember from a few years ago.

May 16 2012 at 11:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a flight attendant I try very hard to offer a smile to every passenger. Truly, I empathize with the customers who have been denied the services that they once received. When United Airlines entered bankruptcy, my salary was cut by one third and my pension was taken away. When the company exited bankruptcy, the top 400 vice presidents each received a $1.000.000 bonus. I was promised a return of my former salary and many lost benefits with the next contract. Currently, the "new" United is asking for more salary reductions from flight attendants. One of the reasons that many flight attendants seem unavailable in a particular cabin is because staffing has been drastically reduced. As soon as a service is completed in one cabin, help must be given in another cabin. How much I value the moments when I can actually talk with my guests. The enormous frustration that passengers feel from flight attendants is directly related to the outrageously high salaries that the executives have been receiving for many years. The executives continue to make promises to passengers and employees alike. These are promises that are not possible to deliver. If it helps at all, I am smiling now at this simple opportunity to reply to your article on the Big Boost in Post-Merger Pay for United Executives. Thank you.

October 08 2010 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And you were expecting what? The guy who suggested you can go on your trip without luggage(unless you pay) should get the most. Now THAT is customer service at its best!

October 05 2010 at 3:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply