This New App Feature Ensures That You Won’t Miss Your Flight

United is the first airline to integrate Apple’s new Live Activities feature, which provides constant access to real-time flight information. Here’s how it works.

Screen shot of United Live Activities Dynamic Island Expanded View

During the busy summer travel season, flight times can change—a lot. This is one way to stay in the know.

Courtesy of United/Alina Shchennikova

For those who chronically misjudge how long they have until boarding starts for their flight or who feel the need to constantly check the airport’s flight information display systems to see if there have been any gate changes or delays, a new app feature could put your mind at ease.

United Airlines recently announced that it has enabled Live Activities, an Apple feature that gives travelers real-time notifications on their lock screen. (The tech isn’t currently available on Android.) Travelers with the United app who have checked into a United flight can see up-to-the-second information about their departure gate and a running countdown to boarding (and then departure) without opening the United app. And from the Live Activity widget, customers can also open their boarding pass with a swipe for quick access.

Screenshot of United app flight time alert

From the lock screen, travelers can swipe up and their boarding pass will appear.

Screenshot by Bailey Berg

“This new feature is another way United is leveraging technology,” Linda Jojo, United’s chief customer officer, said at a press conference in Denver on May 24. She added that customers open the United app more than 800,000 times daily to check (often multiple times) that their gate hasn’t changed and that they’re still expected to leave on time. Having the feature on the lock screen, Jojo said, will help customers save a little time.

Once in flight, the Live Activity feature switches to counting down the time until landing. And after the wheels are down, it lists baggage carousel information.

For those with an iPhone 14 Pro or iPhone 14 Pro Max, the information also appears on the Dynamic Island, the pill-shaped area on the iPhone screen, when the phone is unlocked, so it is still visible as customers scroll through social media or answer emails.

Live Activity software has been available since the iOS 16.1 update on October 24, 2022. So far, travel-related companies like Uber and Lyft, two ride-share companies, have incorporated it into their apps to show pick-up countdowns, and Park Mobile, a parking meter app, has used it to send notifications to remind users when their meter will expire. United, however, is the first airline to start using the iPhone feature.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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