American Airlines Implements Banked Flight Schedule in Chicago and Dallas

Change Shortens Layovers, Improves Connections

By Paul Riegler on 29 March 2015
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An American regional jet in Chicago last month

An American regional jet in Chicago last month

American Airlines passengers at Chicago O’Hare International and Dallas/Fort Worth International airports on Sunday may have thought that the airline was giving flights away given how much busier the two airports were at certain periods of time throughout the day.

On Sunday, American implemented a major change in how it schedules flight operations at the two airports, putting banks of flights into fairly narrow time slots.

Banking flights, as it is called in the industry, is having more flights arrive and depart in narrower time windows, offering tighter and presumably better connections for connecting passengers. The hope is that a shorter layover at either of these hubs will translate to an overall shorter travel time and convince more travelers to fly American.

Flights will be grouped into 10 banks throughout the day. Some of the banks will be directional, with flights arriving from the east connecting to westbound flights, or vice versa, while others will not be.

At the airport, it will result in larger crowds and far more activity during the busiest periods, interspersed with periods of relative calm.

American had been a pioneer in banking flights starting in the 1980s but many U.S. airlines largely abandoned operating connecting flights this way shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, believing it to be a cost-saving measure.

American first announced plans to resume the practice shortly after its merger with US Airways at the end of 2013. Its largest competitor, United Airlines, followed six months later, announcing plans to reintroduce banking at three hubs.

At O’Hare, American will reportedly hire some 250 people while it will add four time that number to operations. The change requires more people to check in passengers, handle bags, work at gates, and provide catering services to planes during the busiest periods.

The change, American said in an employee newsletter, is a “massive undertaking” impacting “every aspect of the operation.” Rebanking will, however, “add more structure and integrity to the reliability of the operation.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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