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UAL Rolls Out Antidote for Misconnecting Flights

Worried about missing connections due to troublesome flight delays? United Airlines says there’s an app for that

This scene is more common than it should be. You arrive at the airport well ahead of your flight, run to the gate, learn of a menacing delay that will have you landing around ten minutes after your connecting flight departs. You look at your phone and start scrolling for a Plan B.

United Airlines says they feel your pain. So, they are rolling out ConnectionSaver, a new tool that can save steps and time and possibly help passengers make those tricky connections. The downloadable app is powered by new technology that automatically identifies departing flights that can be held for connecting customers, while ensuring those who have already boarded the aircraft arrive at their destination on time – using some of the extra time airlines pad into their flights for just such occasions. As an added comfort, the ConnectionSaver app sends personalized text messages to every connecting customer (who has opted in to receive notifications) with clear directions to the gate for their connecting flight and information about how long the walk will take.

United’s ConnectionSaver technology automatically scans flights for customers who are making tight connections to determine if the connecting flight can be held without inconveniencing other customers. The ConnectionSaver tool takes into account factors such as the time it will take for late connecting customers to travel gate-to-gate as well as the impact the hold may have on other flights and customers.

“ConnectionSaver only works if it allows us to care for as many customers as possible – without inconveniencing others – and that’s exactly what this technology has shown it can do,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer at United.

United launched its ConnectionSaver tool on all flights at Denver International Airport in February, and then expanded it to Chicago O’Hare International Airport – two of the airline’s busiest hubs with thousands of connecting customers every day. During the past four months, more than 14,400 customers, who would have otherwise missed their connections, were able to make their flights through ConnectionSaver assistance. Flights that were held for connecting customers were delayed an average of six minutes.

Once opted in customers land at their connecting airport, they receive a text message that tells them the gate where they are arriving, the gate for their next departure and the expected travel time between the two gates. The texts then include a link with step-by-step directions to the next gate and a map of nearby amenities.

United plans to introduce ConnectionSaver to its hubs by autumn 2019 and eventually all other airports it operates at in the future.

In January, the airline launched its reimagined mobile app for Apple and Android phones, refreshed with new features that include updates for customers at each step of their travel journey.

Those include:

• A navigation bar that gives customers quick access to some of the most popular tools such as flight status.

• A My Trips tab in the navigation bar that allows customers to easily access information about their upcoming trip and stores boarding passes when customers are checked in for their flights.

• An inbox that stores important push notifications United sends customers about their flight, such as if a flight status changes, gate changes and alerts about when boarding for a flight has begun.

• Dynamic boarding times will be updated throughout the app in the event that departure times change to give customers the latest information even when they are not at the gate. This builds on the airline’s recent addition of boarding notifications, which were added when United rolled out its Better Boarding process.

For those travelers who may be traveling on other airlines and want to plan for probabilities of flight delays, new app technologies are making it possible to predict flight delays from months in advance up to just before the flight. Stay tuned for more coverage on this ever present problem and fixes afoot.