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United Continental Pilots Ratify New Contract

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United Airlines
Karen Bleier | AFP | Getty Images

Pilots at United Continental Holdings, the world's biggest airline, have ratified a contractwith the U.S. carrier that will provide enhanced pay andretirement plan contributions, their union said on Saturday.

The tentative agreement was approved by 67 percent of votingpilots, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said in astatement. Some 98 percent of the eligible 10,193 pilotsparticipated in the voting, which ran from Dec. 1 throughSaturday.

The contract provides benefits such as a lump-sum paymentthat averages about $40,000 per pilot, and 16 percent companycontribution to pilots' defined contribution plan, the unionsaid.

ALPA represents more than 12,000 United Continental pilots.

The agreement was reached after more than two years ofnegotiating for a joint collective bargaining agreement withUnited Continental, which was formed when United parent UAL Corpand Continental Airlines merged in 2010.

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

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

Pilots at United and Continental have been working withoutnew contracts since they agreed to givebacks in the last decade,during which time United went into bankruptcy and Continentaltook stringent cost-cutting measures.