MIAMI — American Airlines plans to merge the reservation systems as early as July, and the airline plans to take a different approach than other airlines, like Continental and United, have in the past.
Rather than shut down the two sites overnight to make the switch over, the airline plans a “90 day drain-down.”
The “drain-down” will occur in three phases. Phase one will be like a 90 day warning with American releasing a schedule change that will make all US Airways flights American flights 90 days later. During phase two, all reservations after the 90 day period ends will be re-booked into the American Airlines reservation system, and customers who try to book beyond the 90 day period will be redirected to the American Airlines website. Lastly, the US Airways reservation system will be shut down, during phase three.
American’s executives believe that this is a much better approach to make it seamless to customers so they have to ask themselves “what transition?”.
Meanwhile, about 11,000 airport and reservation employees will be busy training before the switch over. Airport employees will go through about one week of training while reservation employees will go through about six weeks of training.
Unfortunately, reservation system mergers have not gone well in the past; most recently was the United/Continental merger. The airline shut down both sites and moved the reservations in United’s Apollo system over to Continental’s Shares system. The next morning, thousands of customers were stuck in long lines or stranded as United worked through some glitches. US Airways suffered some similar issues when it merged the reservation systems with America West.
Will this be a successful transition? Time will tell, but it is a different and gradual approach which may help the airline with a smooth transition. This is not the first time that an airline has gone with a similar approach; Delta something quite similar when it combined the Delta and Northwest reservation systems, and it went very smooth.