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United to add flight attendants

Ranks will swell for first time in four years

CHICAGO — United Airlines said Friday it plans to hire 2,000 flight attendants in the coming year, the first time it has added to its flight attendant ranks in four years.

The announcement comes less than three months before United, a unit of UAL Corp., wants to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy and demonstrates its intent to expand next year after a three-year restructuring.

"We have essentially completed our restructuring, and we are in a much better position to compete," said Pete McDonald, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

United first released the information on Thursday to several newspapers as part of a marketing campaign. The nation's second-largest airline finished recalling furloughed attendants last month and has 15,500 on active duty, said Jane Allen, senior vice president of onboard service.

Allen said United needs additional attendants to staff more daily flying hours and international flights, as well as make up for attrition that has come during the restructuring.

Elk Grove Village-based UAL has said it is on schedule to emerge from bankruptcy in early February.

"The attrition has been extremely high, three to four times what it had been before these latest concessions and the termination of our pension plan," said Sara Dela Cruz, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants.

A federal appeals court upheld a ruling this month that allowed United to terminate its pension plan.

Allen told The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that new attendants' salary is expected to start between $23,000 and $24,000 a year.