United Airlines is rolling out “ConnectionSaver” technology across the board after successful trials in Denver and Chicago. The new tool has great potential.
Gate agents often will not hold a flight because of the unknown ripple effects of doing so. Say you hold a flight for five minutes to allow for a group of delayed connecting passengers to board. That five-minute delay may cause a 20-minute delay in takeoff due to a missed takeoff slot. Suddenly, instead several passengers faced missed connections and the next flight on that aircraft also faces delay.
But what if gate agents could know with high certainty if holding the fight would negatively implicate take-off time and connecting passengers onboard? What if gate agents knew that six extra minutes was okay, but not eight? That technology is now here with United’s ConnectionSaver tool.
What is ConnectionSaver?
United explains the multi-faceted nature of its ConnectionSaver technology:
ConnectionSaver 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. ConnectionSaver also 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.
United created a couple of videos to explain the new technology, which I think do a great job of doing so:
For the seasoned traveler, United wants to soothe your anxiety over missing your onward connection so a straggling family can make a flight. Toby Enqvist, United’s Chief Customer Officer stated:
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. We’re determined to capitalize on as many opportunities as possible to better serve and care for our customers and that’s part of what sets United apart from our competitors.
United makes clear that most flights will NOT be held for delayed passengers.
Tools like ConnectionSaver show the upside to modern technology. Guiding passengers on their mobile phones via the United app to their next gate and carefully balancing the ripple effect of even a small delay are now possible. But many things sound nice in theory. Now we have to wait and see if this technology actually works in practice.