Pilots for UAL Corp.'s (NASDAQ:UAUA) United are calling for CEO Glenn Tilton to resign. Their reasoning, per a press release put out by their union leaders, is that United has regressed in operating performance and customer satisfaction.

There's truth to their argument. Throughout 2008, UAL has cut jobs like a gardener cuts grass, joining unionized bleeders Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), and Embraer (NYSE:ERJ). On-time performance has suffered since. Only 59.3% of its flights arrived on time in June, more than 10 percentage points off the national average. Only AMR's (NYSE:AMR) American was worse, on time just 58.8% of the time.

Don't think this is just a legacy carrier problem – US Airways (NYSE:LCC) trounced the national average by arriving on schedule 76.3% of the time. Why is UAL so badly underperforming the carrier it once hoped to merge with? Pilots say it's Tilton's fault.

Balderdash.

Both management and employees -- and, yes, I'm including pilots -- deserve the blame. I know because I've read UAL's proxy statement. Page 31 reveals this screwed-up business for exactly what it is. There, you'll find UAL's performance versus its internal targets for what the company calls a "success sharing plan." But that's a gross misnomer. More on why in a minute; first, the numbers:

2007 United Promoters Score

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Target

22.1%

22.9%

30.9%

31.7%

Actual

20.7%

16.9%

22.4%

22.3%

Source: SEC filings

On-Time Departures

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Target

59.9%

61.4%

61.6%

61.9%

Actual

56.9%

57.7%

57.2%

50.6%

Source: SEC filings

More troubling: These scores, and targets, are far worse than what UAL put up in 2007:

2006 Definite Intent to Repurchase

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Target

38.2%

35.8%

35%

35.2%

Actual

35.6%

34.9%

34.4%

35.1%

Source: SEC filings

On-Time Departures

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Target

59%

59%

59%

61.1%

Actual

56.6%

58.6%

61.2%

61.1%

Source: SEC filings

Yet, in each case, participants in this program were paid bonuses. Last year, more than 45% of the pool of money set aside was paid out, which means UAL is paying for underperformance.

But the most troubling part of this (ahem) success-sharing plan is that some employees aren’t participating. From the proxy:

The Success Sharing Plan for 2007 provided eligible employees, including the named executive officers, the opportunity to earn short-term incentive awards based upon the achievement of certain predefined performance goals. Since the beginning of 2008, several employee groups have elected not to participate in the Success Sharing Plan in exchange for other compensation. [Emphasis added.]

Tilton's the problem? Yeah, he's part of it. But isn't the bigger problem a business model wherein the interests of management and employees are anything but aligned? One in which underperformance is actually rewarded? Nah, that couldn't possibly be the issue. It makes too much sense.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. When he’s not typing up articles for Fool.com, you'll find him picking growth stocks for Rule Breakers. Get access to all of his writings here, or enjoy a daily dose of his Foolishness via this feed for your RSS reader.

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