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Bulletin Board – September 26th, 2017

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September 26, 2017

RUPA Members:  Update from RUPA and RAFA!

Special Joint Announcement for RUPA and RAFA members:

The Retired United Pilots Association (RUPA) and The Retiree Association of Flight Attendants (RAFA),  and other retiree groups have worked hard over the last year to advocate for improvements to our pass benefits. Today the Company agreed to one of our suggestions.

Effective with the open enrollment this winter, retired employees will be able to change their Enrolled Friends twice per year; the first effective on January 1, the second effective on July 1.  All other aspects of the Enrolled Friend benefit remain unchanged.

Outgoing RUPA President Cort DePeyster and RAFA’s Kirk Moore deserve much credit for this improvement, which arose when the various retiree groups met with senior management at the April 2017 Retiree Summit in Chicago.

While this is good news, we were unsuccessful in obtaining other improvements such as:

Improvements to boarding priority and/or vacation passes for retirees.  

The Company stated, barring a change in management, they will not be changing this part of our pass benefits.  UA President Scott Kirby emphasized that United Airlines is focusing on repairing their relationship with employees and they believe changes to our boarding priority and vacation passes would be counterproductive to that effort.

“Primary” Enrolled Friends for retirees.

Again, they felt that this would negatively impact the employees at a time when they are focusing on repairing their relationship with the employees.

Enabling Enrolled Friends of widows and widowers to continue past the 90 days following the death of the employee  

 The company felt this would add complexity to the logistics of administering this benefit as they would have to track who remarried and who didn’t. Plus they did not want to extend more pass benefits to individuals who have never worked for United. 

Increasing the discount on the myUAdiscount positive space benefit. 

The company said if they increased the discount above 20% it would then become a taxable benefit and they didn’t want to go there.

The Company also informed us that the IRS will soon be requiring withholding, just like with employees, for imputed income taxes from travel by Enrolled Friends and certain other eligibles.  

Initially each retiree will receive a paper bill for the tax in the mail each quarter which we will have to pay to the company   Starting in January, 2018 no 1099s will be issued but instead we will be receiving W-2s that will show the imputed income received and the imputed tax we have paid to the company.  As a result the previous practice of not having to pay imputed income tax for annual imputed income under $600 per year is now out the window.  We will have to pay the tax on all imputed income.  The only exception will be for trips flown where the imputed income for that leg is less that $25.

Note: As mentioned in the RUPA Magazine, effective January 2017, United now calculates imputed income for each segment using the ZED medium fare instead of 10% of the Y fare; which has been a big savings to Retirees and employees.

That’s the quick and dirty initial plan designed to comply with the new IRS requirements.  Eventually the company plans to automate this on the company web site where we can, for example, have automatic deductions from a credit card, and be able to adjust our withholding amount, just like employees do.

Additional news:  Besides the improved Enrolled Friends program

and a new IRS required method of collecting Imputed Taxes, we learned of three upcoming 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.

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

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

3) Coming next year: An updated, mobile version of employeeRES! This will make accessing pass travel even easier from your mobile devices.  We will be briefed more on this in our next meeting with management. 

We appreciate that 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 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 retiree issues in the coming years with this new relationship.

Already the Company has said they will evaluate two other requests:  

The cost and quality of Retiree ID cards, and the absence of our file numbers on them.   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 the next conference call.

Captain Pat Palazzolo

RUPA Pass Travel Representative

Kirk Moore

Chairperson, RAFA Travel Benefits Committee

Retired United Pilots Association
Phyllis Cleveland, Eblast Coordinator
P.O. Box 400 Vineburg, CA 95487 -0400