United Executives See Big Boost in Post-Merger Pay

United-Continental Merger Lands Airline Executives a Big Pay Raise
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.

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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.