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Glitch in combining computer reservations at United Airlines continues to cause problems

Published: March 6, 2012 | 8:12 am
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Operational performance improving after Saturday’s flight delays, faulty kiosks and jammed phone lines

United Airlines said Monday that its operations had improved after a weekend spent grappling with a computer glitch that occurred as it combined its flight reservations system with that of its 2010 merger partner Continental Airlines.

The world’s largest carrier, a unit of United Continental Holdings, suffered flight delays, faulty kiosks and jammed phone lines starting Saturday. United reported lingering effects Monday.

“After combining our computer systems Saturday morning, our operational performance continues to improve,” said spokeswoman Megan McCarthy.

“The wait times continue to be longer than normal, and we have notified customers through the website and other channels (that) if they’re not traveling within the next 72 hours to consider calling back at another time,” she said.

United and Continental closed their $3 billion merger more than a year ago. The new airline, known as United Airlines, spent much of 2011 rebranding itself and combining some of its customer services with Continental’s.

The shift to a single reservation system and website marks the last major change customers will see as the old Continental Airlines disappears.

United said Sunday afternoon that 83.1 percent of its domestic mainline flights were arriving on time, in line with the company’s 80 percent monthly goal. Earlier Sunday, 75.5 percent of United’s mainline flights were on time, which means arriving within 14 minutes of their scheduled time.

As of midafternoon Monday, the airline’s domestic mainline on-time performance was 90.6 percent, it said.

United spent months preparing for the change, including training about 15,000 employees on new software. The airline added 600 additional reservations agents worldwide to assist with calls during the transition. However, call volume and handling time Monday continued to be high.

Morningstar airline analyst Basili Alukos said the problem would not have a lasting impact on customer perceptions of United. He called the transition to a single reservation system “successful but not perfect.”

“It didn’t seem like the impacts were that dramatic, that there was that much of an effect on flying,” Alukos said.

“Obviously, it’s something that’s important for consumers. Was it so impactful that now you’re going to see people change (airlines)? It didn’t seem like that would be the case.”


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