Skift Take

United wants to hold flights to wait for connecting passengers. But is this the right idea?

United Airlines may hold more flights for connecting passengers as long as its computer system calculates that a short departure delay won’t lead to more dissatisfied customers later in the day, Bloomberg reported.

It makes sense. Sometimes airlines rush for on-time departures, closing the door on late-arriving customers, even when an early arrival is expected. United recently tested the feature in Denver, and found that by delaying some departures by an average of four minutes, it could save a significant number of connections without jeopardizing arrival performance, Chief Digital Officer Linda Jojo said.

I don’t like it. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I like on-time departures. I’ve gone through the hassle of getting to the airport, going through security, waiting in the boarding line, and stowing my bag. At departure time, I want to push back, not wait for a few stragglers. Not even for three minutes. 

Sometimes, you arrive early. I feel that’s part of an unspoken contract with the airline. More often than you’d like, you may land late. Occasionally, you’ll arrive 20 to 30 minutes early — a welcome surprise.

Call me callous, but I bet most business travelers feel the same. We understand missed connections happen, and we’ll wait for the next flight if it means we’ll be on time (or better yet, early) the rest of the time.

I’ll make exceptions for long-haul international segments, once-daily flights, or the last flight of the night. Beyond that, I say, let’s depart on time.

What about you?

— Brian Sumers, Senior Aviation Business Editor [[email protected], @briansumers]

Best of Skift

U.S. Airlines Hold Off Grounding Boeing’s Latest Jet Despite New Calls for Caution: This is a fast-moving story, and I would not be surprised to learn the headline is inaccurate by the time you read this newsletter. But as of Tuesday morning, the FAA and U.S. carriers said they had no reason to ground the Boeing 737 Max. Other regulators and airlines preferred to err on the side of caution.

The Curious Case of Japan’s New Low-Cost, Long-Haul Carrier: From Singapore, Skift Asia Editor Raini Hamdi has details on the new low-cost carrier from Japan Airlines, to be called Zipair. It plans to operate flights from Tokyo’s Narita International to destinations in Asia, Europe, and the Americas starting in summer 2020.

Sun Country CEO Aims to Diversify C-Suite in Rebuilding Period: Skift’s Sarah Enelow-Snyder has followed-up her recent story about how few women work in senior executive roles at airlines. Sun Country, a tiny U.S. carrier, has an all-male executive team. But CEO Jude Bricker said he wants to change that.

American Cancels Flights Because of Shoddy Overhead Bins: American is retrofitting hundreds of Boeing 737s to add more seats, bigger overhead bins, and smaller bathrooms. The airline admitted last week that one vendor tasked with the work made some errors, and American grounded more than a dozen aircraft to fix them. The airline’s mechanics union has said the airline is downplaying the severity of the issues.

JetBlue and Alaska Feel Pinch From New U.S. Transcontinental Fare War: Have airlines added too many seats on key coast-to-coast routes? This appears to be the consensus, with several carriers reporting softness on long domestic routes from New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. This is not a big deal for the largest airlines, but transcontinental flights account for roughly a third of all capacity for both JetBlue and Alaska. They’re feeling the squeeze.

Singapore’s Changi Is Changing the Idea of What an Airport Can Be: Singapore has hefty budgets and a government obsessed with infrastructure, so it’s little surprise the country’s airport is among the best in the world. Skift’s Raini Hamdi has a report on Changi’s latest updates.

Airlines Tap New Tech to Sell Each Other’s Fares: It is difficult to combine two airlines’ fares unless the carriers are codeshare or interline partners. Does it have to be this way? My colleague Sean O’Neill, Skift’s travel tech editor, has information on some promising new ventures that could change how we buy airline tickets. Hums Along With Growth Despite a Narrow Business Base:, the reseller of airlines and hotels points, reported gains in revenue and profit in 2018 thanks to resilient economies in its key markets, Skift’s Sean O’Neill reports.

Best of the Rest

United Tests Software to Hold Planes for Late-Connecting Passengers: United President Scott Kirby spoke last week at an investor conference about the airline’s plan to hold more flights for connecting passengers. United’s platform “tells an employee, tells customers, ‘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,'” Kirby said. Bloomberg’s Justin Bachman has more.

Boeing 737 MAX: The Latest Example of a Passive DOT: Has the U.S. government been too lenient with U.S. carriers in recent years? Scott McCartney, a Wall Street Journal columnist, makes the case that regulators haven’t been paying close enough attention. However, he mostly criticizes the Department of Transportation and not the FAA. (The FAA is part of the DOT, but has considerable autonomy.)

Airlines Pollution Levels Are Going Through the Stratosphere: It’s the travel industry’s dirty secret. Hundreds of millions of new passengers are coming, and there’s no solution to pollution or carbon emissions in sight. According to this Bloomberg story, “airplane pollution, which has risen by about two-thirds since 2005, is forecast to jump as much as sevenfold by 2050.”

Europe’s Airline CEOs Fess Up to Which Rivals They Admire Most: At a recent meeting of Airlines for Europe, a trade group, several of the continent’s airline CEOs were in a jocular mood. Most had nice things to say about their competition, Bloomberg reports.

Join Me In London

We’re less than two months from Skift Forum Europe, this year in London on April 30.

I’ll make my first appearance at Skift’s big London event, and I’m hopeful you can join. I’ll interview Alex Cruz, CEO of British Airways. I find Cruz to be one of the more engaging and honest airline executives, and I suspect he’ll be as interesting on stage as off.

For more information, click here.

Contact Me

Skift Senior Aviation Business Editor Brian Sumers [[email protected]] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.

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Tags: airline innovation report, united airlines

Photo credit: United Airlines has been testing a new system that could reduce missed connections. Pictured are United jets in Chicago. United Airlines

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