United drops plans to use new jetways after mishap

Dewbridge remains committed to dual-bridge design


United Airlines has decided to abandon a new type of high-tech jet bridge it had used in Denver until an accident earlier this year, when part of one collapsed onto the wing of a plane.

No one was injured in the incident, but United stopped using that part of the bridges as the company and the manufacturer of the technology conducted investigations.

The bridges connect to both the front and rear doors of a plane, allowing passengers to get on and off aircraft more quickly.

The jetways, which branch into a Y shape, use sensors to detect a plane's position. The main bridge connects from the gate area to the front door, while a rear arm automatically extends over the wing to reach the back of the plane.

United began using the bridges at Denver International Airport last year and eventually operated five there. The Chicago-based carrier planned to deploy the jetways in other cities across its network if they proved successful at DIA.

But in March the back arm of a bridge fell onto the wing of a plane, damaging the aircraft. No one was on the bridge at the time.

After completing an investigation, United determined that "the technology did not meet our needs at Denver," said Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the airline. "We want to be absolutely sure that any new technology meets the needs of our customers and our business."

United - the largest carrier at DIA - is now removing the arms of the bridges that connect to the rear of planes but will continue using the main sections that link to the front doors.

Canada-based Dewbridge Airport Systems, which developed the bridges, said it remains committed to the technology. But Dewbridge Vice President Neil Hutton declined to discuss the matter further, citing a confidential agreement with United.

"We're obviously disappointed" in United's decision, Hutton said.

United was the first carrier to use the bridges on a regular basis.

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