American plans gradual shift to a single reservation system

Phoenix
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American Airlines plans to route all new reservations through Sabre 90 days before its official move to just one reservations platform, in an effort to reduce passenger disruptions during its merger with US Airways.

The “draw down” will significantly reduce the number of reservations – and potential disruptions – that need to be moved to Sabre from the US Airways platform on the first day of the single system, says Scott Kirby, president of the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier, at the Phoenix International Aviation Symposium on 4 April.

American anticipates losing a small number of sales during the 90 days, he says. However, the potential for a smoother transition outweighs those losses, he adds.

“It’ll just be a fraction of the customers showing up on the first day who need to be cut over,” says Kirby.

Combining reservations systems has been a major stumbling block to previous airline mergers. Technical issues occurred when United Airlines and Continental Airlines moved to a single system resulting in numerous delays and headaches for the carrier in March 2012. US Airways experienced similar disruptions when it combined reservations systems with America West Airlines in 2007.

The move to legacy American’s Sabre reservation system is driven by chief executive Doug Parker’s belief that it is easier to move the smaller carrier – US Airways in this case – to the large carrier’s systems.

American plans to consolidate its reservation functions on Sabre in 2015.

The integration of American and US Airways has gone relatively smoothly since the merger closed in December 2013, says Kirby.

There have been a few issues but none were big enough to catch the attention of the press, he says while speaking with reporters at the symposium.

“The test for us is when we stumble [and] inevitably we will stumble,” says Kirby.

American and US Airways implemented reciprocal frequent flier benefits and limited codesharing in January, and the latter officially joined American in the Oneworld alliance on 31 March.

No significant integration activities are planned before the peak North American summer travel season, says Kirby.