Creditors’ eagerness to wrap up the 37-month-old restructuring is one reason the process no longer faces major obstacles, according to Boyd. “Yes, they’re (nearly) out of bankruptcy but it’s taken them three years of wallowing around like a brontosaurus in a tar pit,” he said. Nonetheless, the consultant said, United will exit as a good airline with strong customer service and a sound route system. “If they do the right things, there’s no way it’s going out of business.” First, however, the company must address objections to the management stock plan, which both its unions and the committee representing unsecured creditors vehemently oppose. Airing the issue publicly at the hearing is something United would like to avoid, and could even delay the plan’s confirmation. Spokeswoman Jean Medina said United hopes to consensually resolve as many of the remaining issues as possible before the hearing. Bill Brandt, president and CEO of Development Specialists Inc., a Chicago-based restructuring and management consulting firm, said frustrated creditors could turn the issue into “a bit of a donnybrook” at the confirmation hearing. “I don’t think the creditors have any interest in stopping United from being reorganized,” he said. “The issue will be who owns United on the way out the door.” Equity incentive programs, Medina said, are standard practice and “essential for United to be competitive in attracting and retaining high performers from a broad range of industries.” “The management equity incentive plan will directly align the interests of the management team with shareholders and build incentive for managers to maximize the value of the company to the benefit of all creditors and future stockholders,” she said. On the Net: www.united.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson Voicing confidence they’ll soon be done with “the distractions of restructuring,” United executives told employees Tuesday the company has earmarked $400 million this year for capital improvements – the most since 2001 – such as more check-in kiosks, refurbished airplane interiors, upgraded computer systems and new ground equipment. Chief Operating Officer Pete McDonald also said in the recorded message that the company, based in Elk Grove Village, Ill., will be making a wide range of unspecified operational changes as it focuses entirely on improving the airline. The bankruptcy overhaul, which began in December 2002, was initially expected to take about 18 months. Instead, it has taken more than twice that long as United cut billions in costs and struggled to stop its losses amid high oil prices, a revenue-sapping competition with discount carriers and its failure to get a government loan guarantee. The nation’s second-biggest airline continues to lose money, pressured by high fuel prices, and its projection of a profit in 2006 envisions oil falling to $50 a barrel – a more than 20 percent drop from current levels. In a positive sign, it did manage to report a $9 million operating profit for the traditionally weak month of November. “Kind of against all odds, they soldier onward,” said New York-based industry consultant Robert Mann. “Eventually it will come up to put up or shut up time, but they do seem to be making progress.” CHICAGO – United Airlines’ parent company has entered the homestretch of its more than three-year stay in bankruptcy, well-positioned to emerge from Chapter 11 next month now that it has won creditors’ support for its reorganization plan. UAL Corp. still has some disputes to resolve before seeking a judge’s final go-ahead at a Jan. 18 to Jan. 20 confirmation hearing, including one over its controversial proposal to give 400 top managers 11 percent of the new stock in the reorganized company. But industry experts said Tuesday that no significant threats to a February exit appear to remain after its announcement late last week that a wide majority of creditors had voted for the reorganization plan. “I don’t think anything’s going to snag it now,” said Denver-based airline consultant Michael Boyd.