United is testing a data tool that informs the airline if flights
can be held to accommodate connecting passengers who are running late.
The tool has been in trial at United's Denver hub for
approximately a month, spokeswoman Erin Benson Scharra said, and will be rolled
out in phases to other hubs later this year.
During a presentation Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Industrials
Conference in New York, United president Scott Kirby said the tool has already
saved thousands of customer connections.
The tool, Kirby explained, tells United employees, "Hey,
here are five or six customers that are coming to this connection, they are
going to be five minutes late, but we know we can make up the time in-flight on
this particular flight."
The name of the tool, Dynamic D-0, borrows from the airline
industry metric D-0, which is the percentage rate that an airline pushes
flights from the gate by their scheduled departure time.
Keeping that number high is important for airlines, which
are increasingly competing over operational reliability. But in an email
Thursday, Scharra explained that 25% of United flights are scheduled with
enough leeway to arrive 10 or more minutes early on a typical day. Dynamic D-0
allows the airline to analyze which flights have that extra time and can be held
to allow connecting customers whose incoming flights are arriving behind
schedule to make the gate before the door is closed for departure.
"We expect the holds to have minimal impact on
performance as the flights are expected to arrive on time even with the hold,"