United Airlines texts travelers live radar maps to explain delays

A United Airlines plane seen at the gate at Chicago OHare International airport (ORD)on October 5, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.

Daniel Slim | AFP | Getty Images

Don’t believe bad weather is the reason your United Airlines flight is delayed? The airline will now text you live radar maps to prove it.

Even when it’s bright and sunny, a thunderstorm hundreds of miles away can still disrupt your flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration can issue ground stops, which prevent traffic from departing for a certain airport so that those facilities don’t get overloaded.

Bad weather can also force flights not only to depart late but to take longer routes to avoid it, delaying arriving aircraft. Thunderstorms can crop up suddenly and are harder to predict than larger systems, such as winter storms and hurricanes. Delays can occasionally cascade, leaving planes and crews out of position.

United said on Wednesday that it is using generative artificial intelligence to send travelers links to live radar maps, provided by flight-tracking platform FlightAware, as well as other flight disruption causes, such as mechanical issues or airport congestion.

Its technology will be put to the test around the July Fourth holiday period, during which United expects to set a record with 5 million people flying between June 28 through July 8, up 7% from last year.

In the first half of the year, nearly 942,000 U.S. airline flights, or 21.4%, arrived late, slightly better than the 22.3% of flights that arrived late in the year-earlier period, according to FlightAware.

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