What percentage of United passengers miss their connections?

 United Airlines is re-banking its Chicago schedule. What does this mean? Photo: United. 

United Airlines is re-banking its Chicago schedule. What does this mean? Photo: United. 

Ever wonder how many passengers miss their connections at large airline hubs?

I have some rough data this week from United Airlines, which this month made several changes in how it operates at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. United has changed its schedule to ensure more flights arrive at roughly the same time, and then depart at the same time. The goal in what is called "banking" is to facilitate short connections for as many passengers as possible. 

Here's how United explained it in a note to employees:

The re-banking is part of our Route Map goal to improve operational reliability and profitability. Banking -- when a large amount of flights all land within a narrow time period, then take off within a similarly narrow time period -- allows us to shorten our connection times as well as improve directional flows in many of our hubs. This will ensure that customers who make connections spend less time waiting for the next departure and is particularly important in our hubs that rely on east-west traffic flows.

Chicago was among the first United hubs to be re-banked. In the note to employees on Tuesday, United gave these data points on current operations:

  • The mainline month-to-date customer 'misconnect rate' at ORD is 2.47%
  • On United Express, the 'misconnect rate' is 2.96%

As many of you know, a 'misconnect' is situation in which a passenger arrives in Chicago late, thus missing the connecting flight. One thing I do not know is the difference between 'mainline' misconnects and 'Express' misconnects. Or more specifically, I do not know how United classifies mainline-to-Express misconnected passengers.

It sounds counterintuitive, but United claims the new system is actually resulting in fewer misconnected passengers than in the past. I don't have enough data to know exactly why. But in the note to employees, vice president for O'Hare Charles Duncan said the new schedule actually adds some efficiency.

"Peaking has made gate space easier to manage -- we have a peak, clean it out and peak again," he said. "Before, we were busy all day without recovery periods."

Here are United's Chicago misconnect percentages for one year ago, early March 2014. You can see a considerable improvement. 

  • Mainline. 3.28%
  • Express. 4.82%

I have a 52-minute connection at O'Hare on Thursday, so I'll get to experience banking first hand. I'll try to let you know how it goes.