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Airline Installs Gear to Speed Plane Boarding

September 08, 2006|From the Associated Press

CHICAGO — Looking to improve its boarding process and turnaround times, United Airlines is rolling out automated boarding equipment that it says should make getting on and off its planes much faster.

The carrier put the first of five advanced jet bridges in place Thursday at Denver International Airport, one of its five U.S. hubs, with plans to install them at other airports.

The dual-end or Y-shaped bridges connect to both doors of a narrow-body plane, arching over the wing to the back door, to allow for simultaneous loading or unloading. They automatically connect to aircraft using sensors that detect the plane's position, thus doing away with the need for workers to connect them by hand.

Some dual-end bridges are in use, but United says it is the first to be completely automated.

The airline began testing the first bridge Aug. 23 at Denver, where it is now fully operational for flights on Ted, its discount carrier.

"Our customers -- especially those in the rear of the plane -- are already telling us they love the convenience of the new bridges," said Alex Marren, United's vice president of operational services, United Express and Ted.

"Also, because we can board customers faster, we are able to eventually add more flights without adding new aircraft."

United says the bridge can reduce the time it takes to unload and then reboard a plane by 10 minutes, allowing it to fly its planes longer each day.

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