Image: Glenn Tilton
Yoshikazu Tsuno  /  AFP/Getty Images file
The union representing pilots at UAL Corp.’s United Airlines is urging Chief Executive Glenn Tilton, shown here, to resign.
updated 8/12/2008 10:06:23 AM ET 2008-08-12T14:06:23

The union representing pilots at UAL Corp.’s United Airlines urged Chief Executive Glenn Tilton to resign Monday, accusing him of steering the nation’s No. 2 carrier down a path to poor customer service, employee morale and financial performance.

United responded in a statement that the union request “is an obvious and predictable attempt to deflect attention from” its “illegal activity” cited in court papers filed by United last month. The airline asked a federal judge to stop four pilots and their union from abusing sick time and refusing to fly extra hours.

The injunction request accused the Air Line Pilots Association of encouraging a sick-out, which is not allowed under the Railway Labor Act, the labor law governing airlines. It also said pilots were refusing to pick up extra flying.

“We recognize market realities call for difficult decisions and resolve,” United said in its statement. “We will continue to take the necessary actions that enable this company to compete in this environment and refuse to repeat the mistakes of the past, when the interest of one stakeholder was put disproportionately above balancing the needs of our customers, employees and shareholders — to the harm of all.”

Spokeswoman Jean Medina said Tilton will not resign.

The pilots have stepped up criticism of United’s top executives in recent months, angry that they have not gotten additional compensation since their pay was reduced sharply during the company’s bankruptcy restructuring from 2002-06. Their pension was also terminated while UAL was under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In a statement, the United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association said United needs new leadership. It launched a Web site to draw attention to what it says have been Tilton’s failures since he took over as CEO in September 2002.

“Under Glenn Tilton’s tenure, United has gone from being the finest airline in the world, with the best route structure and safety record, to a shell of its former self,” said Capt. Steve Wallach, chairman of the pilots union’s executive committee. “He has had every opportunity to turn this company around, and tap the abilities of its first-class employees, but instead he has run it into the ground.”

The Transportation Department said last week that United had the second-worst on-time rate in June, with 59.3 percent of flights arriving at scheduled times. Overall, the nation’s airlines were on time more often in June compared to a year ago.

The United pilots union also cited a recent survey conducted by United that revealed that only 38 percent of United employees take pride in United, down 15 percentage points from 2006.

“This is not a personal attack on Glenn Tilton,” Wallach said. “These dismal numbers speak for themselves. They are a reflection of his inability to lead, his incompetence as a manager and his failure in virtually every category that can be measured. We have tried every conceivable way to convince him to invest in, and maximize the goodwill of, his employees. He has failed miserably.”

In March, United said it planned to ground as many as 20 airplanes, or 4 percent of its fleet, and further cut capacity in 2008 to soften the blow of soaring oil prices. At the time, United’s pilots criticized the plan, saying that “shrinking the airline to achieve profitability has been demonstrated to be a failed business practice.”

Before joining United, Tilton, 60, was vice chairman of the board of directors of ChevronTexaco, as well as interim chairman of Dynegy Inc. Previously, he served as chairman of the board and chief executive of Texaco Inc., a position he assumed in February 2001.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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