The clock is ticking down to one of the last, and perhaps the most significant, dates in the two-years-long process of merging American Airlines and US Airways.
That date is this Saturday, October 17. That’s when the US Airways reservations system will be absorbed and integrated into American’s system, and US Airways will officially cease to exist. After the 17th, all flights will be listed as American Airlines flights; the only remnants of US Airways will be the livery on some aircraft that haven’t yet been repainted, and perhaps some employee uniforms that haven’t yet been replaced.
The final US Airways flight will be a ceremonial red-eye trip leaving San Francisco on Friday night and arriving in Philadelphia the next morning. On that day, all airport signage should be switched to American, and the US Airways website will disappear. And at that point, American will be the world’s largest airline.
But the big question for travelers is how smoothly the merging of the reservations systems will go. This has always been a harrowing procedure for big merging airlines in the past; United-Continental had computer-related problems that some would argue still aren’t sorted out five years later.
And it seems like automation problems are becoming more common even with airline computer systems that aren’t being merged. Just Google “airline computer glitch” and you’ll find one that grounded hundreds of Southwest Airlines flights just last weekend; a month ago, American was hit with a glitch that grounded all its flights out of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Chicago O’Hare and Miami; in early June, a similar problem grounded United’s flights for half an hour, and in July another one kept all its planes on the ground for two hours; and last February, hundreds of Delta flights were cancelled when passengers couldn’t check in.
American officials sought to reassure people in a media conference call this week that they have matters well in hand for the systems merger this weekend. They said that starting on Wednesday (October 14) and continuing through the 27th, the carrier will staff up a special command center with 1,000 employees to deal with any problems that might arise.
Since they are especially concerned about operations at the US Airways hubs at Philadelphia, Phoenix and Charlotte, American has preemptively reduced flight schedules there for October 17 by about 11 percent, or 200 flights.
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