United’s taking flight delay explanations to the next level

Jan 21, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Nobody likes flight delays — unless you manage to score more time at a posh resort or high-end airport lounge, perhaps — but one airline in particular has been doing a top-notch job of curbing some uncertainty, at the very least.

With detailed delay notifications, United’s boosting transparency through its flight status page — specifically when it comes to airport operations. As a result, the carrier is able to ease customer concerns a bit, while also eliminating the need for flyers to constantly check in with agents at the gate, freeing them up to rebook flyers, or perhaps even hold the plane for travelers arriving on another delayed flight.

United’s been sharing detailed flight status information since 2018, but I’ve recently noticed that the airline’s delay and cancellation notifications have grown even more sophisticated, as I spotted for a flight from Newark (EWR) to Bogota (BOG):

The delays are manually written by a team United calls the “Storytellers.” Located at the carrier’s Network Operations Center (NOC) in Chicago, employees write detailed explanations for flights delayed over 60 minutes, as outlined in the first couple minutes of the below episode of the airline’s explainer series, Big Metal Bird.

When it came to the Bogota notification, as a tried-and-true aviation geek, I appreciated the detailed explanation, but craved a bit more. So I set out to investigate the delay on my own.

I discovered that Bogota El Dorado International Airport has a noise-abatement restriction in place between the hours of 10:00pm and 6:00am — essentially, aircraft aren’t allowed to fly low over certain neighborhoods, to avoid disturbing residents. As a result, all departing and landing planes need to use the north runway — 13L/31R — during the overnight hours, reducing the number of aircraft that can takeoff and land.

The flight in question, United 1068, has arrived roughly an hour behind schedule every day for weeks. And, for past flights, the airline is referencing “government restrictions that prevented flights from taking off or landing” as the cause of the delays, so it seemed likely that the Colombian authorities have assigned this flight a new landing time — at least temporarily.

Given the uncertainty here, and a consistent pattern of delays, I reached out to United to see if the airline had any more details to share. It turns out I actually stumbled upon an issue the carrier’s been dealing with for some time — as a representative explained:

“The Colombian Government issued an order limiting operations in Bogota during the time United operates flights. We are seeking a resolution from the Colombian Government on this issue as quickly as possible. We regret any inconvenience this issue has caused travelers and look forward to reinstating normal operations soon.”

So, ultimately, there was indeed more to the story here, though that’s perhaps a bit too much detail to include in a small text box on the flight status page.

Ideally, your flights will always go out on time. When they don’t, however, it’s helpful to have an idea of what’s going on — whether the delay is caused by a mechanical issue that resulted in an aircraft substitution, a customer service hold for connecting passengers or an especially long de-icing queue.

For more on what to do if your own travels are impacted by weather or other factors, be sure to check out our detailed guide.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.