Flight canceled on United? Here's how a new computer system will help you.

Rough day at the airport? United hopes to make it better with a new computer system that will rebook you when your flight is canceled. Jassy-50/Flickr.

Rough day at the airport? United hopes to make it better with a new computer system that will rebook you when your flight is canceled. Jassy-50/Flickr.

No one likes it when an airline cancels a flight. But United Airlines is rolling out a new sophisticated computer system that should make it easier for you to reach your destination. 

You may think this is old news. Like most airlines, United has long had an automated system to automatically rebook passengers. But that system, United admits, was not effective. United recently told employees that fewer than 20 percent of passengers actually flew on the new itinerary suggested for them. The old version would suggest inconvenient options, leading many travelers to instead seek help from customer service.  

United's new software is called the Journey Management System, and it now being used for canceled flights in most markets. Eventually, it will be used for delays, too. In short, United claims it is a lot smarter than what it has replaced. 

"Logical routings that are accepted by more customers will ultimately lead to less spoiled inventory, and in turn better solutions for others," United told airport employees in a bulletin. 

The new system has a few other benefits for United. One is that it will make it easier for the airline to prioritize its best customers. If you're a top status member in United's frequent flier program, the airline should get you home faster.

Another benefit is that the system is better at routing passengers away from trouble. If a passenger is flying from San Francisco to Newark, with a stop in Chicago, and the Chicago-Newark leg is canceled, the system may just put the customer on a nonstop flight. In the past, United's software might have allowed that passenger to still fly the first leg to Chicago, even if O'Hare was a mess. That would make it hard for the customer to ever reach Newark. 

"Not only does this improve the outcome for our customer, but also relieves pressure from the impacted airport and its customer service centers," United told employees. 

A final benefit is that the platform can be tailored to individual airports. If you have traveled in Japan, for example, you know the Japanese can be fanatical (in a good way) about customer service. United knows that, so it can make the system run differently in Tokyo than in Los Angeles. 

No matter where you are, if the new system changes your itinerary you'll get an email or text message. It will ask you to go to United's mobile app or website, where you can accept its recommendation or search for a new option. 

Have you been rebooked recently by United's new system? Was it a better experience than you had a year or two ago in the same situation?


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