United Airlines texts customers live radar maps during weather delays

United said it will now text customers live radar maps when delays occur due to weather events, to keep them apprised of factors affecting their flight’s status.

The airline wants to keep customers in the loop in the event of delays and provide them with as much information as it can, perhaps to temper passenger frustration when their travel plans are interrupted due to circumstances out of the company’s control. 

“United’s latest innovation — real-time radar maps — can help customers understand how inclement weather in one part of the country can impact a flight elsewhere,” United said in a statement announcing the effort. 

The company is using generative AI tools to power these and other messages to customers. Previously, United personnel generated flight-related messages sent to customers, announcing things like gate changes or new departure times. The new effort comes just ahead of the busy July 4 holiday travel period, with airports preparing for record-setting numbers of passengers. About 5.74 million people are expected to take to the skies to celebrate Independence Day, up almost 7% from the same period last year, according to AAA.  

“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,” United’s Chief Information Officer Jason Birnbaum said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

Airline customer service and flight operations team members will assist the AI in generating a customer update “that tells the complete story of a flight change.” 

During weather-related disruptions, updates will include links to real-time, local radar maps that help illustrate “how weather in one part of the country can impact a flight elsewhere,” United said. 

United has long leveraged technology to communicate with customers, including by providing automatic rebooking assistance so passengers don’t have to stand in a line to talk to an agent in person, and by sending customers real-time flight updates. 

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