Retiree Pass Travel Improvements

September 27, 2017  

Updated September 30th in red font

Updated again October 2, 2017 in green font

Retiree organizations have worked over the last year advocating for improvements to our Pass Travel benefits.  United Airlines graciously hosted a Retiree Summit in April and a couple follow-up conference calls through the summer. Today we are pleased to announce the Company has agreed to one of our suggestions:

Effective in 2018, retirees will be able to change their Enrolled Friends two times per year; the first effective on January 1, the second effective on July 1.  This enhanced benefit applies to retirees only; all other aspects of the Enrolled Friend program remain unchanged.

Note: Open Enrollment in December 2017 will remain the same as usual; it will take place Dec. 1- Dec. 28, 2017 (until 7 PM CST) for travel in 2018. Mid-year enrollment will be Jun. 1- Jun. 28, 2018 (until 11:59 PM CT) for travel July-December 2018.  You may register two different Enrolled Friends per each 6 month period or keep the same two for the entire year. More information will be posted on "Flying Together" HERE: 

During our April meeting with senior management we also requested improvements to boarding priority and/or vacation passes for retirees.  UA President Scott Kirby told us the Company is intent on building positive momentum with employees and they feel strongly that changes to our boarding priority, either directly or through vacation pass changes, would be counterproductive to that effort.

Other Pass Travel suggestions we discussed included “Primary” Enrolled Friends for retirees, enabling Enrolled Friends of widows and widowers to continue pass travel beyond the 90 days following the death of the employee and increasing the discount on the myUAdiscount positive space benefit.  The Company did a cost/benefit analysis on each item and said they will not extend pass travel to individuals who have never worked for United as it impacts operational efficiency and increases costs. Changing the myUAdiscount above 20% would create taxable events for retirees/employees, and with the introduction of Basic Economy, the myUAdiscount has become a better bargain.


The ETC announced improvements effective October 18, 2017 when flying on a myUAdiscount ticket: 

1) Waived pet in-cabin fees (savings of $125 each way)

2) Waived unaccompanied minor fees (savings of $150 each way) 

3) Boarding Group 3 or higher (depending on Mileage Plus credit card purchase or MileagePlus Premier status).

 Remember, to receive the 20% discount and 2 free bags, you must buy your positive space tickets either on FlyingTogether>Travel>myUAdiscount or on the United app (if it is linked to your Mileage Plus number).

We appreciate the Company took the time and resources to sit down with us face-to-face, hear our Pass Travel requests and act on them. While our lack of success in some areas is disappointing, we appreciate that the Company worked with us to secure this enhancement to the Enrolled Friend program. We give the Company credit for initiating regular meetings with the retiree groups during the last year for the first time in our memory.  That in itself is a welcome change and we look forward to addressing other ways retirees and the Company can work together on issues in the coming years with this new relationship.

Additional news:  

Imputed Taxes on Pass Travel: reporting and withholding are changing.

Effective November 1, 2017 reporting will change from Form 1099 to Form W-2.

In March of 2018 retirees will receive quarterly invoices for tax withholding.

Read important Imputed Taxes information on Flying Together here.

  "FlyingTogether > Travel > "In this section" > "W-2 Pass Travel Tax Reporting" 

A quick synopsis is in RAFA's October 3, 2017 Pass Travel UPDATE.... see item #2.

Besides the improved Enrolled Friends program and a new method of collecting Imputed Taxes for retirees, we learned of three other improvements to Pass Travel:

1) Availability for contacting the ETC by phone has significantly increased from 8 hours a day M-F to 12 hours per day, 7 days a week. Although these calls are outsourced, there has been more call operator training.

Now there is a survey we can take at the end of each call and if your input is negative, you will be contacted by an ETC employee based in the US to find out how the issue you experienced can be improved.  This is a very welcome improvement!

2) There is 24/7 support for Pass Travel and other retiree questions (name changes, health insurance, etc) available online via the “Help Hub” portal on  Flying Together > Employee Services.

3) Coming next year: An updated, mobile version of employeeRES! This will make accessing Pass Travel a piece of cake on tablets and mobile phones.  We will be briefed more on this in our next meeting with management.

Already the Company has said they will evaluate two other requests: 1) Retiree ID cards are costly and do not have file numbers on them: See below.    2) The annual fee for a MileagePlus Explorer credit card is discounted for employees but not for retirees.  We hope to hear back about these items on our next conference call.

On October 2, 2017 the Company responded about retiree ID cards:

"The layout and information of the badge was approved by our branding and our legal department. There was a clear directive for us to make certain that retiree badges would not be confused with an active employee badge.  Thus, the horizontal layout, general design, lack of a mag stripe and no Employee/Retiree ID.  

-          The $50 replacement fee mirrors that of our active employee population.

-          The $35 fee includes the cost of badge stock, cost of ribbon and laminate, labor, cost of FedEx/USPS Certified Mail and PayPal transactional costs.

The Retiree badge is a voluntary purchase.  It is not necessary for travel.  However, we do understand to receive discounts sometimes it’s required.  Remember you can print a retiree verification letter for cruises and such by going to employeeRES > Quick Links. "

If you have any suggestions for retiree improvements contact your local retiree council; the Company does prefer the suggestions come thru retiree group leaders.

The 6 retiree groups who participated at the April 2017 Summit:

Retired Association of Flight Attendants (RAFA)

Retired United Pilots Association (RUPA)

Retired United Airlines Employees Association (RUAEA)

Golden Eagles

Clipped Wings


Submitted by Kirk Moore, Chairperson, RAFA Travel Benefits Committee

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