United employees gathered at Gate 81 to receive profit-sharing checks, the first ever in the company's history. The event was largely ceremonial, with a handful employees on the podium representing their departments. An added bonus was the 100 Grand (formerly known as the $100,000 Bar) and Payday candy bars.
Lawrence Watuma is a lobby customer service director and 15-year united veteran.
"The check is a big surprise and we're very excited about that," said Watuma.
United flight attendants say they would rather have the profit go into restoring their salaries and pensions. Association of flight attendants spokesman Steve Murzi said "It's too little, too late."
They gave up $314 million a year in concessions in the last contract and gave up their pensions entirely. They're now working at 1994 wage levels and they've been working on a new contract for nearly two years.
"We deserve for the executives at United Airlines to be at the negotiating table right now instead of handing out checks and water bottles and candy bars," said Murzi.
"We're working right now with all of our labor groups. We're in the midst of collective bargaining which we're undertaking in good faith and we are working earnestly with all of our employee groups to achieve agreements that are fair and competitive," said United Senior Vice President of Technical Operations Jim Keenan.
United was not alone in bringing in a profitable year in 2010. Business travel consultant Chris McGinnis says the industry was back in the black by $15 billion.
"They cut way back on capacity, they parked a lot of planes in deserts, they stopped buying new planes, and they just waited for the consumers to come back and they have come back, in droves now, so all planes are full," said McGinnis.
United's 85,000 employees are sharing in $224 million worth of profits and the check sizes vary, depending upon the employee's job title and seniority, but most are a paycheck plus a little more.