Data science could keep United out of more trouble


I’ve avoided flying United for many years. On my last trip to Japan about 10 years back, somewhere along the way an employee took my ticket and said I’d get another one in Japan. Wrong! On my return, United told me I had to buy a new ticket for around $7,000.

Anyhow, we’ve all heard about United’s overbooking disaster, where a passenger faced a lot worse abuse than I did. With the right data and analytics, another outcome could have been possible.

When the tickets were sold, United’s ticketing system could have seen there was a high probability that the other flight would arrive late and that crew members frequently bumped passengers. The ticketing system could have reserved a number of seats as standby or told the last four passengers booking them that they might be bumped. Then, when the other flight was coming in with the crew that needed to get back home, United simply could have avoided boarding the last four.

In fact, flight data is a cornucopia of statistical information. You could learn a lot about the following:

. Unfortunately, so far, U.S.-based airlines seem to lack a strong economic reason to care about customer service.