Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Some jokes die only slowly.

I'm moved to consider the human condition every time someone, on hearing the words United Airlines, immediately gruffs that they're the people who beat passengers up and throw them off planes.

It's little wonder, then, that at least some in the airline's management appear to have considered the violent removal of passenger Dr. David Dao an item worth deep contemplation.

So much so that United has been nibbling at notions that were previously sacrosanct.

Passenger-friendly notions, that is.

Why, the airline has already offered one passenger $10,000 for the privilege of being bumped. (She took the deal.)

Now, however, United is taking this people-sensitivity a little further.

You see, the airline has been testing delaying flights.

No, that isn't (an attempt at) humor.

United has been using its computer systems to make judgments as to whether a flight can be delayed so that connecting passengers can get on it.

The experiment -- called ConnectionSaver -- appears to be working. The Los Angeles Times reports that, by October, United will have expanded this idea to all its major airports.

United's delay-the-flight system differs a little from that of other airlines. 

In general, airlines prefer to let their staff make the call as to whether a flight should be held.

Indeed, as United's CEO Oscar Munoz revealed last year, Gate Agents were previously given some power as to particular circumstances that might influence the need to delay a flight.

With this new system the decision will be made by, oh, a computer. 

You can imagine that this is a dangerously fine line upon which to teeter.

How many passengers will be only too happy to accommodate their fellow humans?

And how many will be haranguing the cabin crew, demanding the plane take off because they have an important recital to attend, lover to see or limousine to catch?

Of course, delaying a departure doesn't mean the plane will arrive late.

If airlines put as much padding into their seats as they do into their schedules, flying would be more of a pleasure.

Still, United's data appears to declare that more passengers like the new system than despise its very ethos.

It's always reassuring these days when one can find a true majority.

I tend not to have too much faith in the decision-making powers of computers.

In United's case, the ConnectionSaver computer can only be overridden by supervisors. 

At least, that's what they think. Thin is the line between UAL and HAL. 

Ultimately, however, at least one can commend the effort to please as many people as possible -- while tempting the airline, the dry might add, to create tighter and tighter connections. 

And doesn't it give United's employees a wonderful excuse in the face of criticism: 

Of course I'd like to leave on time too, sir. But the computer says we have to wait for five people from Wyoming and the computer was just promoted to Head of Operations.

Published on: Aug 31, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.