United has good news for flyers with tight layovers

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Photo Credit: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

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," Scharra wrote.

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