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Beginning the week of July 18, American Airlines will begin the next step in its merger with US Airways: combining reservations systems. Did your blood just curdle a little bit? No one could blame you given what a mess past reservations mergers have been (I’m looking at you, United/Continental). At least American and US Airways can learn from other airlines’ mistakes, and the carriers have what appears to be a fairly rational, gradual plan to ensure things go smoothly.
The move is the next logical step in a process that has been nearly two years in the making, and this migration will begin three months after the two carriers received a single operating certificate.
According to American, beginning the week of July 18, it will begin to phase out US Airways’ reservations system (called Shares) and begin retraining its employees (about 9,000 at airports and 2,000 reservations agents) to use American’s system (Sabre).
The whole migration process should take 90 days, and there are three major steps:
- Beginning the week of July 18, American will change its schedules 90 days out so that all US Airways flights become American Airlines flights.
- During that 90-day change period, all new reservations beyond October will be made through the American Airlines reservations system. That includes reservations booked through US Airways customer service or through its website, which will redirect to AA.com.
- Finally, at the end of the 90-day period, US Airways’ reservations system will shut down completely, and any reservations that were made through US Airways for future flights prior to the transition will be migrated to the American Airlines system.
That last step is the tricky one, and the one most likely to wreak havoc on people’s travel plans as the two airlines try to switch existing US Airways reservations over to the American system. That means if, for example, you made a reservation through US Airways today for travel in December, you would be one of the customers affected.
The airline has tried to allay customers’ fears about this by pointing to the fact that only about 10% of reservations are made more than 90 days out, so relatively few flyers will be affected. The airline has dubbed the gradual shift as a “drain down,” where only a dwindling number of reservations must be changed as time goes on.
If you are making reservations for flights beyond October, however, I’d suggest doing so through American Airlines at this point to avoid any possible problems.
Through its spokespeople, American has already copped to the fact that this is a complex process and there might be snafus. That said, it also points to past mergers, including US Airways’ own haphazard merger with America West in 2004, as examples it has learned from, and it says it’s aiming to make the whole transition as seamless for its customers as possible. At the very least, the rampant dissatisfaction and cost to United as a result of its own reservations system merger with Continental should be enough to scare any airline into doing its best in this regard. We can also take hope from the fact that the merger of the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs went pretty smoothly.
That said, only time will tell, and even the best-laid plans of mice and men (and mergers) often go awry.
For more on the merger and its developments, check out our series of posts on the topic:
- American Airlines / US Airways Receive Single Operating Certificate
- Confirmed: American/US Airways Merging Programs March 28
- American Airlines Refreshes the Look of Its Award Charts
- AAdvantage and Dividend Miles Merger: What You Need To Know
- American and US Airways Open Standard and AAnytime Awards
- Match Up Your American and US Airways Accounts Now
- American Airlines Announces New Combined AAdvantage Program
- American Airlines Announces Reciprocal Upgrades and More
- Consolidated List of American Airlines’ Surprise Changes
- The American Airlines-US Airways Merger: Winners and Losers
- Official American Airlines-US Airways Merger Announcement and What it Means for Consumers