United Air’s pilots want Chief Executive’s pay cut


United Airlines pilots, locked in a legal battle with the carrier, want the board of parent UAL Corp. to reduce Chief Executive Officer Glenn Tilton’s pay.

The Air Line Pilots Association in a statement today stepped up its battle against Tilton by publicly calling on the Chicago- based company’s directors to act. The union in August called for Tilton’s resignation, citing poor on-time performance, unhappy customers and financial losses at United.

The union’s request builds on a rift between the pilots and United, the second-largest U.S. carrier by passenger traffic. The airline has said it will cut 950 pilot jobs among 7,000 positions it’s eliminating as it parks planes to help stem losses from record fuel costs.

“United Airlines is losing money, cutting back on service and asking passengers to pay more for less,” Steve Wallach, the union’s chairman at the airline, said in the statement. “It’s time for the board to tie Tilton’s pay to his performance.”

Tilton’s 2007 compensation was $10.3 million, including a base salary of $850,000, stock and option awards and non-equity incentive payments, according to a UAL regulatory filing in April. The pilots union said that was the highest total compensation for a CEO among U.S. carriers.

`Tied to Performance’

United’s compensation plan “is in keeping with sound corporate governance practices,” said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the airline. “It is set by an independent committee of the board, tied to performance with more than 90 percent at risk, fully disclosed.”

Accounting rules require an estimated value for equity- linked portions of Tilton’s total that “does not at all reflect actual compensation received,” Medina said.

The union hasn’t sent a letter to the board and has sought action only through the public request today, said Dave Kelly, an ALPA spokesman.

United and the Air Line Pilots Association are due back in court Oct. 7 for final arguments in a lawsuit the airline filed on July 30 accusing the union of engaging in an illegal work slowdown. The airline has blamed the union for almost 330 flight cancellations affecting more than 30,000 passengers between May 31 and Aug. 1.

The labor group has argued that the number of pilot sick calls was “purely a coincidence” and not a union-backed effort. ALPA represents 6,500 pilots at United.

UAL fell 82 cents, or 9 percent, to $8.33 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. The shares have declined 77 percent this year.