American Hires 1,900 to Avert Air-Reservations Failure in Merger

American Airlines, poised for the trickiest technological challenge in the US Airways merger, has added 1,900 workers to help smooth the transition to a single reservation system.

The new full- and part-time employees will fill gaps while more than 9,600 airport and reservation agents undergo training for the combined system and help handle any issues on the cutover day in October, said Kerry Philipovitch, American’s senior vice president of customer experience.

American is using a 90-day transition starting July 18 after studying how other airline combinations succeeded -- and failed. The process culminates in the disappearance of the US Airways name and two-letter booking code on flights and on airport kiosks, gates and ticket counters. American and US Airways sealed their union in December 2013.

“On October 17, we’re going to be one airline for our customers,” Chief Information Officer Maya Leibman said on a conference call. “One website, one mobile app, one set of travel policies and elite benefits for frequent fliers.”

Recent airline-industry history shows the risks in meshing carriers’ computer systems, especially if they’re done in one fell swoop overnight.

United struggled with technology snags for three days in March 2012 after a weekend move to combine reservation systems with Continental airlines after their 2010 merger. US Airways suffered through more than 10 days of flight delays and long passenger lines in 2007 after it also tried to blend systems following a merger with America West.

90-Day Transition

Because few passengers book travel more than 90 days ahead, the phased-in approach means American will only have to migrate 10 percent of US Airways reservations to the combined system, or 4 percent of the total for both carriers, Leibman said.

Passengers can continue to book tickets for US Airways flights and on USAirways.com for travel during the three-month transition period. Those arranging travel for after the 90-day “drain down” automatically will be sent to American’s Sabre site.

After the reservation systems are combined, American still must move to a single flight operating structure, including combined crew management systems for pilots, flight attendants and maintenance and engineering workers. Work to move to single uniforms for all work groups is continuing.

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