UAL Builds Flight Attendant Ranks

The company's United Airlines plans to hire 2,000 new attendants.
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United Airlines

, the nation's second-largest carrier by passenger traffic, said it will be hiring 2,000 flight attendants over the next year.

The airline will begin accepting applications on Sunday for positions based in Chicago and Washington, D.C. This is the first time the

UAL

(UALAQ)

unit has hired flight attendants in four years.

In a statement, Chief Operating Officer Pete McDonald said "we have essentially completed our restructuring, and we are in a much better position to compete." UAL has been operating under bankruptcy-court protection for nearly three years, and the company plans to emerge from Chapter 11 early in 2006.

Spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said the airline needs more flight attendants as it shifts its capacity from the domestic to the international market, a move several large carriers are making owing to the fact that overseas routes are more lucrative. Attrition is also a factor in the hiring, she said.

United currently has about 17,000 flight attendants. The company furloughed about 5,500 flight attendants shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. About half of the attendants returned, and the last callbacks were on Oct. 31.

The new attendants will be paid $23,000 to $24,000 a year to start, with annual increases until the 14-year maximum of $45,000 for a flight attendant working on international routes. They'll have to work more hours, however, moving up to 85 hours a month from 78 hours.

"The job has changed a lot since 9/11," Urbanski said. "They're flying more hours,

and there are safety concerns."

On Oct. 31, UAL reported a third-quarter loss of $1.77 billion after recording sizable costs for its restructuring. The company would have turned a modest profit if not for those costs. Like other U.S. airlines, United reported improving revenue trends.