I’m guessing that at least half of you reading this post saw the title and decided to read more because it contradicts everything you’ve heard in the news. These are the headlines in some of the US Airways hub newspaper websites:
- Mess at Charlotte/Douglas continues; kiosks down (Charlotte Observer)
- US Airways chaos at airport (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Glitch with kiosks forces US Airways passengers to wait (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- US Airways’ new computer system creates logjam (Arizona Republic)
So how can I say that this actually went well? Because it did. Let me explain. This was a MAJOR undertaking. There were effectively two separate airlines on completely different systems, and they had to merge them onto one system. Even though they chose the old America West system, it still had to be modified, so this wasn’t going to be an easy task from either side.
In the end, all of the thousands of reservations in the old systems made it into the new ones. My future reservations still have their seat assignments (including one booked on the old US Airways system). That is a major feat, and the IT team should be commended for that.
Of course, there were glitches. The biggest glitch is that the old US Airways kiosks are not working with the new system, and that has been the biggest cause of delays, especially on the east coast. Yes, this is bad, but imagine if reservations were lost. This could have been MUCH worse.
Where I will take the airline to task is in the communications department. The website stopped allowing online check in Friday night (as reported by a couple friends), and it didn’t come up until the website was up with the combined system on Sunday morning. They should have communicated to the customers that online check-in would be down in advance.
In addition, once the check-in lines started piling up on the east coast, the airline didn’t have much to say. For most of the day, they just said that there were long lines in Philly, Charlotte, and Boston. If you were traveling out of those airports, you should get there early. That tells you absolutely nothing helpful at all.
By the time, I woke up Sunday morning to check in for my flight, online check-in was up and running fine with a nice new interface. The only problem was that I couldn’t change my seat assignments. My flight was at 530p that night, but I wanted to know how things were running. There was nowhere to get an official word on this. I relied on FlyerTalk forums and news sites to tell me what happened. They definitely should have been more on top of this from a communications standpoint, which is surprising considering how strong their PR team has been in the past.
I’ve been assured that the highest priority right now is to fix the kiosk issue, and I have no doubt that’s true. If you’re traveling today, the airline has finally put up an advisory with more information here. If you’re going out of Boston, Philly, or Charlotte and don’t need to travel, they’ll waive change fees for you and you can delay your trip. Otherwise, just remember to check in online at home and you shouldn’t have any trouble. In a few days, all will be fine and the experience will be much better for everyone traveling on the airline than it ever has been in the past year.