United tests automation to cut back on missed flight connections

United Airlines is testing a new automation tool at its Denver International Airport hub to ease passenger anxiety over potentially missing connections if their flight is late.

Recently company president Scott Kirby remarked a “frustrating thing that happens for customers is, you can be coming again to an airport and your flight is a little late and you’re incredibly tense…you run at the gate and the aeroplane is just pushed back…”.

Mr Kirby concluded it is difficult for gate agents to know when to hold or delay flights due the aircraft having a number of connecting customers or crew members than need to take a fight from the next destination.

“The gate agents do not have all the information and there are hundreds of variables that go into making that decision,” said Mr Kirby.

The automation United is testing Denver alerts both employees and customers there there are passengers trying to make a certain connection that will be, for example, five minutes late, and in certain instances that time can be made up in-flight.

“Sometimes we can’t, and we don’t hold the aeroplane, but when we can, it gives us automation that allows us, and even in the experiments, we’ve saved over thousands of customer connections,” Mr Kirby concluded.

United eventually plans to roll out that automation throughout its system and is something that is sure to be welcomed by its corporate customers. Its US major rival Delta Air Lines has declared that corporate demand is holding up in 1Q2019 as leisure remains a bit choppy due to the partial US government shutdown, weather and other factors.

The airline has affirmed 4% to 6% topline revenue growth year-on-year in the first quarter and remains confident of earnings per share growth of USD6 to USD7 for the full year of 2019. Company CEO Ed Bastian recently declared to investors: “We’re off to a good start in 2019.”