United and Continental Complete Computer System and Web Site Merger
[Editor’s Note: A more recent article on this topic has been published and may be viewed here.]
United Continental Holdings joined its two subsidiaries, United Airlines and Continental Airlines, on one unified computer system over the weekend. The airline abandoned Apollo, the old United Airlines system, and migrated the entire operation to Shares, the existing Continental Airlines system, giving customers a single platform for finding flights, booking tickets, online check-in, and managing airport operations such as boarding. The system also manages the now-combined MileagePlus frequent-flier program
United Continental had been preparing for the migration to the single platform for close to a year and had been training employees in the past few months on the use of the new system.
While the airline had prepared with a lighter than usual schedule and had been warning passengers of the coming change for months, there were nonetheless many problems reported including delayed flights and missed connections. In addition, some passengers reported problems at airport check-in kiosks and long lines at airport check-in counters.
As of Sunday morning, there was still work to be done and a message on the new United Web site reported: “The United.com transition is almost complete. We are now operating a single website. Please feel free to start exploring, but please note that updates to some features are still in progress.”
The history of such transitions is checkered at best. Last October, Virgin America, which did not have to contend with the difficulties of merging two airlines together at the time of a system migration, experienced significant difficulties when moving to a new platform.
When US Airways attempted a similar migration a year after its merger with America West in 2005, some customers were unable to book flights via the Web or view their frequent-flier accounts. A year later, when the airline migrated to a combined reservations system, it experienced numerous problems as well.
In recent years, only Delta Air Lines was able to pull off a post-merger systems migration without any problems when it transitioned Northwest Airlines’ system to Delta’s.