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A federal bankruptcy judge in Chicago has approved United Airlines' plan to terminate its employees' pension plans -- clearing the way for the largest corporate-pension default in American history.
The ruling carries broad implications for U.S. airlines and their workers. It shifts responsibility for United's four defined-benefit plans to the government's pension agency, saving the bankrupt airline an estimated 645 million dollars a year.
That's part of the two billion dollar annual savings the airline says it needs to line up enough financing to emerge from Chapter Eleven bankruptcy as soon as this fall.
But the cost will be painful to its employees, who stand to lose thousands of dollars annually off their pensions when they are assumed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.