For the frequent flier, airports develop an almost second-home type feeling. But even the most familiar travelers can find themselves turned around in a sprawling aviation complex, some of which are larger than small cities (the Dallas/Forth Worth airport is bigger than the island of Manhattan). So to ensure that the weary, the directionally challenged, or just the average airport denizen never gets lost again, United Airlines has added interactive airport maps to its iOS app, marking one of the few things airlines have done right in recent years (seriously guys, where are my blankets and snacks?).
On Thursday, United pushed this latest feature, which effectively functions like Google Maps only for some of America’s busiest airports. In its original release, the maps are available for seven cities: Chicago’s O’Hare, Denver International Airport, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Los Angeles’ LAX, Newark Liberty Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Washington Dulles. And in a display of benevolence, United has mapped out all parts of the airport — not just the terminals in which its own airline is active. Of course, the maps live on the United app, so if you’re a Delta customer looking to find your way around IAD, you’ll have to download the enemy’s app to do so.
Speaking with TechCrunch, Shannon Kelly, director of eCommerce Planning, and Delivery at United, said, “This is a very specific technology that talks to a real need of the customer. We had the technology, we had the customer need for it.” And the need is very real — with the new app feature, Carlos Faxas, manager of New Technology and Digital Concepts at United, explained, “We can also use the maps to derive accurate distances between objects and points of interest, which is really helpful for a user. We can tell them, for example, your walking time at Newark [to your gate] is a seven-minute walk.”
With the same pin-dropping location employed by other maps, the United airport images are highly interactive, making them even more helpful. Said Kennedy, “Most maps out there today are basically a static image and it’s not much you can do with the. Our platform is completely interactive and dynamic. It’s tappable. You can get a storefront image of the restaurant or shop to get an idea of what sort of a place it is.”
So while traveling may still be a serious pain, United is at least making the getting around the airport part a little bit less headache-inducing.