United Airlines (UAL) - Get Report , celebrating its 90th birthday Wednesday, seems to have arrived at an auspicious moment in its history.

Enthused by the soap opera story of an energetic CEO three months past a heart transplant, galvanized by an unwelcome assault from a couple of hedge funds, lifted by involvement in an airline industry that has achieved record profitability -- the rising tide lifting all boats -- and widely viewed as a company that possibly has begun to recover from two decades of performing below its capabilities, United seems to actually have something to celebrate.

Today's party has two major components.

The first is dessert. The second is a pilot action against the hedge funds.

United will serve cake to employees at every location where it has employees. It is reasonable to think that the number of cakes will reach into the thousands. At San Francisco International Airport alone, United will serve 70 cakes to employees. The airline serves 342 airports in 58 countries and employs 84,000 people. "Cake for all," said spokeswoman Erin Benson.

For passengers, United is giving away specially designed birthday cookies on every domestic flight and on all international flights departing the U.S. United operates 4,626 daily departures, the vast majority from the U.S.

In general, passengers like cookies, especially free ones.

As for the pilot action, the United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association said it will pocket the Boston offices of two hedge funds, PAR Capital Management and Altimeter Capital, that are seeking to add six new directors to the airline's 15-member board.

"In recent weeks, rhetoric from investor groups PAR Capital Management and Altimeter Capital has posed new challenges for the pilots of United Airlines," the pilots said, in a prepared statement. "These investors have made disturbing statements in an attempt to force many changes within United's Board of Directors."

Pilots said they have lost ground during a bankruptcy and other concessionary events during the past two decades, as "management has used opportunities of national crisis to attack our contracts and achieve, through the courts, what they could not secure at the bargaining table.


"Thankfully, and due wholly to our past sacrifices, our situation has dramatically improved," the pilots said. "Now is not the time for hedge fund minority shareholders to reward themselves at our expense. Now is the time for all stakeholders to benefit from continued reinvestment in our airline's corporate infrastructure, customer experience, new aircraft, maintenance, training, IT, and improved contracts."

Pilots plan to demonstrate between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. EDT at 100 Oliver St. in Boston. A spokesman for the hedge funds didn't respond to emails seeking comment.

As Munoz rallies employee support, he reached a major milestone on Monday, when United and the International Association of Machinists announced they had reached seven tentative contract agreements covering about 30,000 workers.

IAM, the largest union at United, represents fleet service workers, passenger service and reservations agents as well as stockroom workers, load planners, instructors, security officers and food service workers.

The tentative deal would run through 2021 and calls for pay increases of approximately 30% percent during its term, as well as a 25% boost in defined benefit pension benefits. Additionally, it "stops outsourcing of work currently performed by IAM members {and} provides insourcing of additional work, a trigger to obtain new work and other work-rule improvements," the IAM said. The current agreement does not become amendable until Dec. 31, but the airline and the union agreed in October to open talks early.

Sito Pantoja , IAM general vice president, commended union negotiators and also thanked Munoz for "demonstrating a willingness to partner with the IAM for the benefit of the employees and the airline."

For a change, it seems, United employee relations are positive, creating a suitable backdrop for a birthday celebration -- and a tough environment for hedge funds that seem to believe that now is a good time to shake things up.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.