Short Flight Connection? This Airline Might Just Hold the Plane

Thanks to its new ConnectionSaver technology, United is ensuring that more passengers make it to their final destination on time.

United plane on tarmac

United has plans to roll out ConnectionSaver at airports across the country and, eventually, the world.

Photo by Philip Pilosian /

Most of us have been there: hustling off one plane to sprint to a gate 10 minutes away for a connecting flight that, unbeknownst to us, has already departed. But thanks to new technology from United Airlines, your plane may actually wait for you in the face of unexpected delays.

Dubbed “ConnectionSaver,” the software works on multiple fronts. For one, it automatically identifies any departing United flights that have the potential to be held for connecting passengers on the basis of which flights can make up time in the air. When such instances are found, ConnectionSaver notifies United’s operations center employees via the software, who decide whether or not to delay the flight. It also sends personalized text messages for connecting passengers who have opted in to the service when booking, letting them know how to reach their next gate, including approximately how long it will take them to reach it.

According to Fortune, ConnectionSaver tells employees, “‘Hey, here’s five or six customers that are coming to this connection; they’re going to be five minutes late, but we know we can make up the time in flight on this particular flight,’” said United president Scott Kirby. “Sometimes we can’t, and we don’t hold the airplane.”

ConnectionSaver isn’t brand-new—the airline debuted it at Denver International Airport in February and then recently expanded it to Chicago O’Hare. But since its launch, it has shown its effectiveness: “During the past four months, more than 14,400 customers, who would have otherwise missed their connections, were able to make their flights thanks to ConnectionSaver,” noted a press release from the airline. Not only that: Flights that were deliberately held for connecting customers were delayed in departing, on average, just six minutes.

This summer, the airline has plans to roll out ConnectionSaver in Houston, with the eventual goal of bringing it to all its flights. A world without any missed connections? Count us in.

>>Next: Long Flights vs. Layovers: The Pros and Cons of Flying Nonstop

Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at AFAR focused on features and essays.
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