I’m at United’s Media Day in Chicago and the morning session gave me seven key takeaways, from new overhead bins to free baggage delivery to Marriott hotel rooms and a new member-driven charity program in MileagepPlus.
- ConnectionSaver is possible because of schedule padding. United has a program to hold planes for connecting passengers where it won’t cause system or other passenger delays. It’s called ConnectionSaver and they’re rolling it out to their hubs. United’s Executive Vice President Greg Hart explained that they’re able to do this because 25% of their flights every day are expected to arrive 10 minutes early. So holding plenty of flights still allows for on time arrivals.
- New 3D views of the aircraft are rolling as as part of united.com seat maps. These begin over the coming weekend for the CRJ-550, but will roll out to other aircraft “rapidly through the end of the year.” Will views from each seat that can rotate around the plane replace SeatGuru?
- Air Traffic Control reform is dead. United says they suffer from air traffic control delays more than other airlines because of their Newark, San Francisco, and Chicago hubs. I asked Greg Hart what are they doing to push reform of the FAA’s ATO, since much of the rest of the world (such as NavCanada) are more efficient. His answer was they’re partnering with FAA, implementing ADS-B, and adopting other aircraft tech. In other words they’ve given up on air traffic control reform.
- The answer to the environmental impact of flying has to come from new technology. United launched a $40 million investment vehicle to support technology companies developing sources of fuel that drive towards carbon neutrality.
- United will now deliver Newark – London Heathrow business class passenger bags to Marriott hotels in London. Marriott will deliver into the guest room. This will be expanded to other markets.
- By 2023 United will retrofit over 80% of their mainline fleet to have larger overhead bins, like Alaska and American are offering. A 1:1 ratio of passengers to space for carry on bags mostly ends gate checking of luggage (which also reduces delays). Most planes getting new bins will get seat power if they don’t already have it. Planes that are being retired won’t get new bins or fill in missing power.
- United now lets qualifies charities register for crowdsourced fundarising campaigns to raise MileagePlus miles. These 28 day campaigns may meet a charity’s goals – they get the miles – while failed campaigns return miles to customers. Donations are no longer limited to a curated set of the airline’s causes.