United uses AI to keep passengers up-to-date during weather delays

July 8, 2024
Real-time radar maps can help customers understand how inclement weather elsewhere can impact their flight.

CHICAGO - United Airlines in Chicago has begun texting passengers links to local, live radar maps during weather delays. This initiative aims to provide travelers with real-time information about their trips, especially during disruptions.

For the past few years, United has employed teams to send text messages with near-instantaneous flight details, including gate changes, boarding times, aircraft swaps, crew rescheduling, and weather events. These teams now use generative artificial intelligence (gen AI) tools to enhance real-time updates during flight delays. United's introduction of real-time radar maps helps customers understand how weather in one part of the country can affect flights elsewhere. 

"With more people traveling this summer than ever, we wanted to give our customers an easier way to stay connected to real-time information about their flight and texting was the simplest solution," said Jason Birnbaum, United's Chief Information Officer. "We know customers appreciate transparency and by combining innovative technology-enabled tools with people power, we can give more people, even more in-the-moment details about their flight."

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These innovations come as United anticipated its busiest Fourth of July weekend on record, with over five million passengers flying between 28 June and 8 July , marking a more than 7% increase compared to last year.

The system works when specialized customer service teams in the network operations center work alongside flight operations teams, using gen AI to review flight data and craft messages that provide a complete explanation of flight changes. These messages are sent via text or email to keep customers informed about changes to their flight plans. During weather events, messages include links to local, live radar maps showing weather details across flight paths. This helps customers understand weather-related delays and the broader impact of weather on flight schedules. Additionally, customers can access links to weather maps in the United app under flight status updates, and radar maps are displayed in the gate area when a flight is delayed due to weather.

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