United Airlines Plans to Hold More Flights for Connecting Passengers

Jun 10, 2019

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All three legacy US carriers have been known to offer tarmac transfers to high-value customers with a tight connection — American through a partnership with Cadillac, Delta with Porsche and United with Mercedes-Benz — but the chances of actually scoring one are slim to none. Now, United’s taking an old-fashioned approach to helping you make a connecting flight: holding your next aircraft at the gate. Naturally, since this is 2019, there’s some fancy technology involved, and some buzzy branding, too.

United ConnectionSaver, as the carrier’s latest tool is being called, flags departing flights that can reasonably be held for connecting passengers. As the airline explains, “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.”

The key here is that the software identifies flights that can be held without delaying or significantly inconveniencing passengers already onboard. For example, if a St. Louis (STL) to Chicago (ORD) is running behind, it wouldn’t make much sense to hold a connecting flight to Newark (EWR) if it’ll mean travelers continuing on to Prague (PRG) will then miss their once-daily transatlantic flight — assuming those STL flyers would likely be accommodated on a flight a few hours (or perhaps even minutes) later, instead. On average, United predicts held flights will remain at the gate an extra six minutes, though, so the impact should be minimal either way.

Meanwhile, United’s refreshed app will continue to update passengers with real-time gate and boarding information, along with maps for select airports, just in time to begin moving through the terminal. Flyers who have opted to receive text notifications can get up-to-the-minute updates that way, too.

United launched ConnectionSaver at Denver International Airport (DEN) back in February, before expanding the offering to Chicago as well. So far, United says more than 14,000 passengers have made connections that they otherwise would have missed had it not been for the tool. Now, United plans to roll the offering out to the rest of its hubs this summer before eventually making it available throughout the system — good news for connecting flyers all around the world.

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