A new program known as “Dynamic D.O.” will be tested at the United Airlines Denver hub. The initiative will, in some cases, prioritize helping passengers make connecting flights following a delay rather than focussing on making an on-time departure. The carrier says it will take steps to keep the experiment from dramatically hurting United’s on-time arrival performance.
United Airlines President Scott Kirby is bucking an airline industry trend with his public comments at an investors conference this week. The airline executive suggested, in remarks first reported by Boarding Area’s Gary Leff, that it might be time to prioritize passengers over operational concerns and on-time departures. He revealed that the airline is testing an initiative that would allow more passengers to make connections by holding flights at the gate for delayed flyers.
“We’re experimenting with a new program in Denver called ‘Dynamic DO,’ another frustrating thing that happens for customers is, you can be coming again to an airport and your flight is a little late and you’re incredibly tense and I’m going to make my connection, you run at the gate and the airplane is just pushed back and then you’re in a customer service line waiting to get re-accommodated on another flight.” Kirby told those gathered at the JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation, & Industrials Conference on Tuesday. “We are testing automation, which eventually rolls out to the rest of the system that tells an employee, tells customers, ‘Hey, here is 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.’ Sometimes we can’t and we don’t hold the airplane but when we can, it gives us automation that allows us and even in the experiments, we’ve saved over thousands of customers connections.”
United’s flirtation with a new kinder, gentler policy for delayed passengers with connecting flights isn’t especially likely to catch on with the competition anytime soon. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker has made it clear he has a polar opposite view on the matter. “The most important thing to customers is that we deliver on our commitment to leave on time and get them to the destination as they have scheduled,” Parker famously told a pilot who questioned the need to leave delayed passengers behind in some circumstances where they could be easily accommodated.
In fact, Kirby’s counterpart at the rival carrier, American Airlines President Robert Isom earned the rather unflattering nickname “Captain DO” among American Airlines workers for his near-obsession with on-time departures. The standard operating practice has been publicly questioned as self-defeating by rank-and-file employees.
“If you depart on time, guess what?” Isom said in defense of the near zero-tolerance policy on delaying departures for connecting passengers. “You have a really good chance of arriving on time. It’s a surprising correlation between the two, right?”
[Source: Wikimedia/ Yonikasz]