Sky Talk

American, US Airways to merge reservation systems this summer

An American Airlines Boeing 757 taxis past a US Airways Airbus A321 jet at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Thursday, March 26, 2015. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)
An American Airlines Boeing 757 taxis past a US Airways Airbus A321 jet at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Thursday, March 26, 2015. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison) Star-Telegram

American Airlines and US Airways may begin combining its two large passenger reservation systems as early as July.

The carriers, which merged in December 2013 but continue to operate separately, told travel agents on Tuesday that it expects to migrate all of the US Airways passenger reservations and ticket information over to American’s system starting this summer. The combination should be completed by the fall.

Unlike other airline mergers where carriers combined their systems and did a data transfer overnight, American plans to slowly move data, or “drain down” the legacy US Airways system over a 90-day period.

With this process, American hopes to avoid some of the problem that have plagued airlines when doing the technology transfer. For example, hundreds of flights were delayed when United Airlines and Continental Airlines merged their systems in 2012 as glitches in the self-service kiosks prevented customers from checking in for their flights.

American said at the beginning of the 90-day period, customers and travel agents can continue to book flights on US Airways’ website and through its reservation system as long as the flights will be flown during that 90-day time frame. If the flight the customer is trying to book is after that 90-day period, they will be redirected to American’s website and have to book the flights through American.

American’s chief information officer Maya Leibman said the passenger reservation system is a critical piece of the airline’s infrastructure.

“It is also one of the most visible integration activities that any airline does in the course of a merger,” Leibman said. “It’s a complex and kind of hairy process to make it all work seamlessly and that’s why we spent so much time preparing for this event.”

Once the 90-day period is over, American will “turn off” the legacy US Airways system and all tickets and reservations will be made through American’s system.

Customers will notice at that time that the self-service kiosks at US Airways airport check-in counters will be the American interface. Gate agents will also switch to using a new interface to check in customers or make upgrade or seat assignment changes in the terminals.

Leibman did not disclose how many passenger name records will need to be migrated to the new system during the 90-day period. She added she expects it to be a small percentage, about 4 percent, of the total passenger records that are likely to be made at the combined American and US Airways during that time.

The company plans extensive 6-week training for about 9,000 former US Airways airport agents and 2,000 former US Airways reservations agents to adjust to American’s new system, said Kerry Philipovitch, American’s senior vice president for customer experience. American also created a new interface for those agents that is similar to the program they currently use, she said.

“It is equally important that all of our people are ready to work in the new system,” Philipovitch said.