The day the American-US Airways merger was announced, Doug Parker said clearly that they would learn from the reservation systems migrations of other mergers — this meant the disasters of US Airways/America West and United/Continental (where the smaller carrier’s system was adopted) and the relatively more successful integration of Delta/Northwest.
They made the choice of American’s reservation system official in January of last year but at the time said the transition could take ‘up to 2 years’.
For at least a year they’ve talked about avoiding a “knife’s edge” approach. They haven’t done a cutover of everything at once. This has lengthened the cutover process, but helps minimize risks. For instance they’ve already sunsetted the US Airways Dividend Miles program and transitioned everyone into American AAdvantage, and replaced US Airways account numbers with AAdvantage numbers in reservations.
So far they’ve done a good job — relatively little customer inconvenience.
They’re using the American reservation system just as they’ve migrated frequent flyer programs onto the American platform.
American went out today with information to major business partners about the transition to a single reservation system.
They’ve shared that when the integration is complete they will retaining interfaces that employees of both airlines are already familiar with — training for a new system was a big issue both for US Airways/America West and even more so for United/Continental. This should make it easier for employees to help customers accurately and quickly. (A new interface was something United learned after the fact that they needed to build.)
They’re communicating that the transition is going to be a 90 day process, which could begin as early as July (meaning final integration as early as October). That’s probably a month or so earlier than I had expected.
- There will be a schedule change that eliminates US Airways flight numbers 90 days into the future. All of those future flights will carry an American flight number only.
- Existing US Airways reservations that have travel at least 90 days in the future will be migrated to American’s Sabre reservation system, so that they become American reservations for the same flight.
This is brilliant, actually. Only 10% of bookings are made over 90 days in advance. That means there will be a very small number of reservations that have to be migrated over to the American system. During the transition period they’ll stop booking US Airways reservations, and nearly all existing US Airways reservations will be flown during this period rather than having to be migrated.
- In July they’ll start the transition
- All flights 90 days into the future will be American flights
- 90 days after the transition starts they’ll move to the single reservation system, when they are only operating as American with American flight numbers.
They will ‘drain down’ US Airways reservations while continuing to operate US Airways flights and flight numbers. And thanks to this 90 day transition there won’t be nearly as big a data migration challenge to move to one reservation system (Sabre).
They will have moved over much of the data (US Airways reservations made more than 90 days into the future) during the transition period, and will still need to move over remaining US Airways ticket information.
In the meantime, continue to book American flights with an American flight number, and US Airways flights with a US Airways flight number if you want to upgrade prior to check-in. Once flights transition to a single American flight number (travel 90 days after this process begins) this will no longer matter.
- Once the process runs to change future US Airways flights over to American flights, you’ll be able to waitlist for international upgrades (currently upgrade space is available or it isn’t and there’s no waitlisting).
- These former US Airways flights will not offer complimentary upgrades to Gold and Platinum elite frequent flyers unless they’re under 500 miles — since they will be American flights, and the upgrade process will run on the American system. 500 mile upgrade certificates will apply. (Of course US Airways elites were gifted some of these when the two frequent flyer programs combined.)
- You’ll need to pay even more attention to the aircraft you’re booking. Cross-fleeting has already been in place but for the most part it’s been safe to assume that legacy American flights had Main Cabin Extra. There’s not been a timetable announced yet for when legacy US Airways aircraft will get extra legroom coach seating. And I know I don’t want to fly US Airways coach. So I’ll keep doing my best to avoid legacy US Airways planes, as a hedge against my upgrade not clearing, because I at least want that legroom.