It’s a travel experience reviled by most: the overbooked flight. When it happens, it can leave customers upset and airline gate agents at wit’s end. But with all the data at airlines’ disposal, couldn’t analytics and automation help alleviate some of this aggravation? That’s what United Airlines asked in 2017, launching an overhaul of its overbooked flight process with a goal of pleasing customers, reducing stress on employees and ultimately cutting costs.
Flights can be overbooked for numerous reasons, explains Jason Birnbaum, vice president of operational and employee technology at United Airlines. Weather, mechanical problems, and traffic control issues, for example, can necessitate changing from an aircraft with 250 seats to one that only has 220.
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