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Bad weather is an inevitability that can ruin vacations, delay flights, and cause stress for travelers.
But when a snowstorm threatened to cripple operations at Denver International Airport over a weekend in February, United Airlines decided to try a different approach.
As early as a week before departure, the airline began reaching out to customers to inform them of the storm and offer rebooking options so they wouldn’t be stranded with a canceled flight when they showed up at the airport. For some travelers, it was the first they were hearing about the storm and were glad to change their flights to avoid it.
35,000 passengers were scheduled to fly during the storm, and the new proactive strategy saved 15,000 flyers from having their trips ruined, United said. Once those flyers were accommodated, the company was able to deal with the rest by consolidating flights, rebooking passengers away from Denver, and adding more flights in the days leading up to the storm.
“We actually added 3,000 seats of capacity, 22 extra flights that we had built, on the Friday before, and we were able to seamlessly move customers over,” David Kensick, managing director of United’s global operations center, told Insider.
Airport operations were one factor United looked at when determining how to approach the Denver storm, Kensick said, but other external factors — such as if public transportation would still be running to the airport — were also considered.
It’s a practice passengers hope they will never need, and United says feedback in post-trip surveys so far has been encouraging.
Focusing on passengers and not just traditional metrics
United has been implementing passenger-focused programs designed to minimize trip interruptions for years.
A similar program called “ConnectionSaver” launched in 2019 makes some flights will quite literally wait for connecting passengers that are arriving on delayed flights. Passengers that do …read more