United Continental pilots ratify new contract

Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:44pm EST

A customer is reflected in a screen showing the schedule times of United Continental Holdings Inc flights at Newark International airport in New Jersey , November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

A customer is reflected in a screen showing the schedule times of United Continental Holdings Inc flights at Newark International airport in New Jersey , November 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

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(Reuters) - Pilots at United Continental Holdings, the world's biggest airline, have ratified a contract with the U.S. carrier that will provide enhanced pay and retirement plan contributions, their union said on Saturday.

The tentative agreement was approved by 67 percent of voting pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said in a statement. Some 98 percent of the eligible 10,193 pilots participated in the voting, which ran from December 1 through Saturday.

The contract provides benefits such as a lump-sum payment that averages about $40,000 per pilot, and 16 percent company contribution to pilots' defined contribution plan, the union said.

ALPA represents more than 12,000 United Continental pilots.

The agreement was reached after more than two years of negotiating for a joint collective bargaining agreement with United Continental, which was formed when United parent UAL Corp and Continental Airlines merged in 2010.

The contract approval removes a hurdle to fully integrating the combined company and creating a single workforce.

Union leaders said when the agreement was initially reached that it would help make economic amends to pilots who had made concessions during difficult years for the airline industry.

Pilots at United and Continental have been working without new contracts since they agreed to givebacks in the last decade, during which time United went into bankruptcy and Continental took stringent cost-cutting measures.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir and Karen Jacobs; Editing by Will Dunham)

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