Motivation: As a former frequent flyer, I cannot count the number of times that I have had to be re-ticketed by a gate agent because the flight on which I was originally booked was delayed to the point that I would miss a connecting flight or the flight was canceled altogether. I have watched gate agents go through this process for an entire planeload of people, which is annoying for the passengers and probably not a highlight of the agent's day, either. I figured that there had to be a better way.
Overview:

The Airline Connection Program (ACP) is designed to minimize passenger inconvenience and gate agent workload by automatically matching passengers on the manifest of a given flight to available flights to a given passenger's destination in the event of a flight delay. The program would continually reference a clock and absent gate agent input to the effect that the flight had left, would start matching passenger itineraries with available flights. Priority would be given to earliest available flights extending to later flights. Passengers using the flight as a connection would be given priority over single-destination passengers. As each passenger's time horizon was reached, the gate computer terminal would alert the gate agent with the passenger information and a new ticket would be issued.

            The passenger time horizon (the latest the passenger could leave the departure airport) would be determined by the block time of the new flight plus 10 minutes for a same-airline flight or block time plus 20 minutes for a foreign airline flight. For connecting passengers, the time horizon would include 15 minutes at the connecting airport to make the connecting flight. All functions would be able to be overridden by the gate agent.

Example:      A passenger is flying from Tampa to Portland, OR with a connection in Cincinnati. The flight from Tampa to Cincinnati is scheduled to depart at 1500 GMT and arrive at 1700 GMT for a flight to Portland at 1900 GMT. Thus the passenger's time horizon is 1635 GMT (two hour flight plus ten minutes to get to the new flight plus fifteen minutes to make the connection in Cincinnati). If the gate agent has not signaled the program that the flight has departed, it will start matching passenger itineraries with all available seats that will put the passenger in Cincinnati in time to make the connecting flight. As available flights depart they are removed from the list. When a passenger's time horizon is reached, they may be called to the gate desk and informed of their choices. If they decide to accept a given choice, the agent may instruct the program to issue a new ticket and alert the receiving gate that the passenger is on the way.

            Various refinements of this program are possible. If the airline is sure that the scheduled flight will be unavailable, then the program may go to a global mode where all passengers are matched to seats consistent with their itineraries. If a flight is delayed and some passengers accept other seats, then the empty seats may be made available for use by others.

Business Prospects: There may already be a form of this program available and in use, although judging from my experience if it is in use either the software or it's implementation is not terribly effective. I would appreciate hearing from those in the industry as to the viability of this concept.

Icon credits: Airplane - pcorneau.worldpress.com, Traveler - www.smartertravel.com, Reservation system - www.uts2000.com, Airplane - www.whitehorse.gov