United's ConnectionSaver: 50,000 made connections and counting
United Airlines is saving roughly 10,000 passenger connections a month with its new ConnectionSaver service by taking advantage of flights that are already going to arrive early.
"These are flights we expect to arrive early and we're taking advantage of that opportunity," said Greg Hart, chief operating officer of the Chicago-based carrier, at United's media day in Chicago.
ConnectionSaver, a service United first rolled out at select hubs in June and expanded to its domestic network by the end of the summer, has saved more than 50,000 passengers connection to date and building good will for the airline.
Related: United Airlines has saved thousands of connections by holding flights
ConnectionSaver "is accruing customer gratitude and appreciation over time while ensuring each aircraft arrives on time," said United CEO Oscar Munoz earlier in October.
The idea behind ConnectionSaver is that the airline can hold some of the nearly quarter of its flights expected to arrive early by a few minutes in order to "save" connections, said Hart. The average delay is around four minutes.
Hart disagreed when asked whether the success of the program is an indication that United "pads" — when an airline adds several minutes to its schedule to cover for an anticipated delay and ensure an on-time arrival — its flight times too much. Other carriers pad their schedules more than United, he claimed.
ConnectionSaver is just one of many technology investments United is making aimed at improving the customer experience. While the program is something only ground staff see, the airline has added functionality to its app that allows travelers, for example, to select and book a hotel room when they are delayed overnight. Other additions include new 3D views of aircraft interiors on the United website with the first, of the Bombardier CRJ550, loading on Saturday.
United is several years into a larger transformation that has focused on everything from product to operations and network. This includes its Polaris business class seats and lounges, improved operations and the benefits of that like ConnectionSaver, and its rapidly expanding domestic network with a focus on Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN) and Houston (IAH).