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New United app feature shows weather impacts with live radar and flight paths

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United Airlines introduced a new tool in the United app Wednesday that can help travelers stay on top of weather delays during July Fourth — the holiday is expected to be the peak of what is already a record-breaking summer travel season.

The new tool features live radar maps powered by generative AI to help passengers visualize potential delays and impacts on their flights, even if it’s bright and sunny at their current location.

United is the first domestic airline to provide radar map-based, real-time information on weather-induced flight delays, the airline said in a press release. Along with the new weather map feature, United already provides fairly detailed information explaining the causes of any delays or cancellations, which it began initially doing in 2018 as part of a pilot program before adopting and expanding it across its system.

The new feature builds on the Chicago-based airline’s effort to improve communications with passengers over the past few years, including nearly instantaneous details about a given flight, such as gate changes, boarding times, aircraft swaps, crew rescheduling and inclement weather.

Considering that the Transportation Security Administration reported screening more people June 24 than any other day in the agency’s nearly 23-year history, these features could be particularly helpful for United flyers over the July Fourth holiday travel week. According to TSA data, the upcoming holiday will likely mark eight of the 10 busiest travel days ever at TSA checkpoints since Memorial Day weekend.

June 30 saw over 1,370 flight cancellations across U.S. airports, including 120 on United — roughly 4% of its schedule. Even so, flight cancellations are down overall this summer, far below the infamous, airline-meltdown-stricken summer of 2022.

“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,” Jason Birnbaum, United’s chief information officer, said in a statement. “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.”

As of Wednesday, the United app will provide customers with links to live weather radar maps showing conditions across flight paths that could lead to potential weather delays. Additionally, all customers can now access links to weather maps in the United app under “flight status updates” to see when a flight has been delayed due to weather.

The push for real-time communication is a joint effort between specialized customer service teams in network operations centers and flight operations teams to use AI, which reviews flight data and writes customer messages.

“These are more helpful and relevant text or email messages that give context about why a flight changed during weather-related delays — including links to live weather radars,” United said in a statement.

A person using an iphone with the united app on it

Much like the TSA, United expects to experience its busiest Fourth of July weekend on record — it predicts more than 5 million passengers will fly between June 28 and July 8, up more than 7% compared to last year.

Other United app features that can assist travelers during flight delays include automatic self-service rebooking assistance, which allows customers to rebook, track their bags and determine if they are eligible for meal and hotel vouchers. United also gives customers real-time access to details such as their flight number and gate, and a countdown clock to departure on their phone screen through Live Activities without opening the app. The airline also remains the only domestic airline to offer an in-app seat map feature for families wishing to book free seats for children under age 12 in their party (included in basic economy fares).

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