Be sure to wear your most comfortable running shoes if your next trip has you venturing through Chicago, because United is truly about to break the bank. Multiple banks, actually. The airline recently announced plans to restructure its flight banks at O’Hare, but it seems the “Flyer Friendly” airline might actually just keep you on the ground.
Airlines in the United States famously “bank” their flights when implementing a hub-and-spoke system. In such a scheme, a large number of flights arrive at the hub location — the “center” of a wheel-shaped network much like a bicycle hub, with spokes branching off in many directions — and passengers arrive nearly simultaneously. With a large number of planes on the ground then heading on to various other destinations, travelers can shuffle across the terminal to their connecting flight and quickly prepare for takeoff to their next stop of their travel plans.
The problem is that O’Hare is notoriously horrendous for allowing passengers to make connections. The largest reason is the simple fact the on-time percentage for both arrivals and departures in Chicago is utterly laughable. Even more problematic is the simple fact that the airport has continuously seen a decline in its ability to handle flights in a timely manner, with a major decline being seen since 2009.
Imagine you are seated on one of the 28% of O’Hare-bound flights that are not going to arrive at the gate on time, yet your departing flight is able to push back and leave without waiting. Enjoy probably paying for your newly-planned overnight stay in Chicago!
Compounding the woes of Chicago’s flight history is the similar decline of United’s ability to arrive and depart on time from any of its locations. You can see the numbers below.
The financial benefits of this hub restructuring could be huge. The less time a plane sits on the ground, the better, as it only can generate revenue with passengers on board and en-route to their destinations. Of course, this goes without mention of delays and cancellations occasionally helping the airlines’ bottom lines. The problem comes when taking note of customer service, a topic that already goes over poorly when discussing United Airlines.
With no time to discuss issues with gate agents at the airport, a line of communication is instantly severed (though, perhaps, this will help with customer service scores). With less time between flights landing and then departing, there is less time to even transfer one’s self from one location to another. It’s unlikely the airlines will increase any sort of customer service holds before planes can depart. Hopefully social media can pick up the slack on this one, and it will certainly have some large shoes to fill.
No matter the outcome of this plan, United will surely see financial benefits. Customers, on the other hand, will have a rude awakening when they think they will have time to grab a bite to eat or even use the restroom. Happy travels, stampeding travelers. Don’t forget to let Spirit know about your woes, once you settle into your hotel for your Chicago overnight.