United Airlines executives know few things frustrate customers as much as not knowing why their flights are delayed, so starting Monday it plans to test a new system in Phoenix and Houston that’ll tell passengers far more about their late flight than they ever expected to learn.
It’s a program called, “Every Flight Has a Story,” designed to help the airline better communicate with passengers about delays. Between Monday and Feb. 16, customers delayed at least an hour in Phoenix and Houston will receive unusually detailed information via text, email and the airline’s mobile app telling them why United delayed their flight, according to information shared this week with flight attendants. Flight attendants will receive the information five minutes before customers through a push notification sent to their mobile devices, ensuring customers will not know more than they do.
United is trying the approach as it tests new ways to reduce traveler anxiety and stress. Often, the airline suspects, customers get nervous because they don’t know what’s happening, and they lack control. United usually gives passengers vague reasons for why their flight is late, such as “delayed due to aircraft maintenance.”
“We have situations where our customers are super-frustrated because we can’t tell them what’s going on — a maintenance delay, weather, or rolling delays,” Scott Kirby, United’s president, told employees at a town hall meeting last year in Los Angeles. “They’re frustrated with that, or they think we’re lying to them.”