If you’ve ever been delayed after landing while the pilot announces you are “waiting for a gate to open up,” remember— it’s us on the other end of the announcement. And we’re just as frustrated as you. In fact, sometimes we can see open gates at the terminal, even as we make the announcement. We just aren’t allowed to park at them, because United’s management has no system to dynamically reroute the people and equipment needed. Most times, it doesn’t have to be this way.

A small investment would result in a dynamic gate assignment system, one which would assign landing flights to available gates, and direct ground support services to the appropriate place. The cost would be amortized in little time by the savings of on-time arrivals and downline on-time departures, not to mention fuel savings in this ultra-high-cost environment.

And in the Department of Simple Ideas, here’s one: We often take delays getting to the gate at the end of a flight because another plane is blocking our route to the gate. This could often be cured, and save time and fuel, by pushing back departing flights out of the way of the path other planes need to use to get to the gate. Pilots have to start engines and run two or three checklists after the plane is pushed back. This takes five minutes or more. If these planes are out of the way while the pilots do it, other planes can get in.  Experienced senior management would know that, or at least know enough to listen to those who do.

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