The Three-Month Countdown to the Disappearance of US Airways Begins Saturday

American, Technology

This Saturday is an incredibly important day in the merger between US Airways and American. The airline has announced that the three-month transition to a single reservation system begins then. And once it begins, there is no turning back. US Airways will officially disappear from consumer view on October 17.

I explained the reservation system migration process back in May when it was first revealed, and the dates I guessed were within a week of what’s been announced. That might sound like dumb luck, but it’s actually a very good sign.

American had said it wanted to do the migration as early as possible in the fourth quarter, so that meant starting the 3 month countdown in July. Weekends have fewer flights and more slack if things go wrong, so it was clear that this would happen over a weekend.

I knew the team wouldn’t want to start the migration around the 4th of July holiday, so I figured last weekend would have been the first rational weekend available. What I forgot is that would mean the migration would occur the weekend of October 12, and that’s Columbus Day. Bad idea. With that knowledge, this coming weekend really was the first smart time to do the migration. The fact that this is what the IT team picked means things must still be going well.

Now that the dates are final, here’s how it’s all going to go down.

Today, you can book all flights out into the future as either US Airways or American flight numbers. That won’t change for flights through October 16. But as of Saturday, the US Airways flight numbers will disappear on all flights beginning October 17 and everything will be operated by American or American Eagle carriers from that date forward.

If you’ve booked a US Airways flight for travel on October 17 or later, then American will simply do a schedule change and put you on the equivalent American flight. (The US Airways and American flight numbers are identical, so if you’re booked on US Airways 5600 from Long Beach to Phoenix, it’ll just be switched to American 5600.) You’ll get an email with your new confirmation number in American’s system. If you booked through a travel agent, then your agent will just handle the schedule change process and that person will notify you. The changes should all be done within a week or so, but be patient. This won’t happen immediately on the 18th.

Once that’s done then, as strange as it sounds, the migration is done from the perspective of needing to transfer reservations. Nothing changes for the next 90 days, and people keep flying on their reservations as usual. With no new bookings coming into the US Airways system for flights on October 17 and after, the number of reservations in the system will slowly dwindle until those last redeye flights on October 16 depart. After they’re gone, the US Airways reservation system will be empty and everything will be in American’s Sabre system.

It may sound like it’s smooth-sailing from there, but of course, it’s never that easy. Though there aren’t going to be any issues with reservations being in the right system on October 17, that will be the first day that US Airways flights operate using the new system. That means agents will have to work flights using Sabre and US Airways flights will begin operating fully under American policies. There could be some minor hiccups as agents get a feel for the new way of doing things.

To mitigate that risk, American is cutting back that weekend. It’s going to operate a reduced schedule on October 17 and it’s going to cap the number of seats it sells on flights as well. That means if something goes wrong, there will be fewer people flying and more empty seats to provide a great deal of flexibility.

If you are flying that weekend, what can you expect? Well, it should still go well. After all, while the US Airways agents will be using a new system, American has put the exact same user interface from the old US Airways system on top of the American system. So there’s not much of a learning curve at all.

There could be some issues around the few policies that still aren’t aligned. For example, the upgrade process on US Airways is different for elites and that will change. There are a few other nagging differences, but most policies and procedures have already been harmonized.

If things go well, then nobody will even notice that October 17 is a real milestone in this integration. That day, the US Airways website will disappear and signage will change. There will be no US Airways in the public view except on the airplanes that have yet to be repainted. (Those should be gone by next summer.) There are other behind-the-scenes systems that still need to be integrated but from a customer-facing perspective, this will be the culmination of the merger, and US Airways will head to the graveyard.

So far, the technological integration has gone extremely well. It seems like the merger continues to be on track for that streak to continue.

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45 comments on “The Three-Month Countdown to the Disappearance of US Airways Begins Saturday

  1. I’m amazed how well thought-through this is. Of course things can go wrong, but it seems like they’ve narrowed that down pretty well.

  2. Has anyone worked out yet after US/AA become one who of the remaining big three America/Delta/United will be the leader of ‘who’s killed off the most airlines to become who they are today’?

    1. I could be wrong – I think it’s American if you include the Eastern assets bought out of bankruptcy in 1991.

      1. I think it might have been US even before the merger, and even more likely after. Allegheny, PSA, America West, Mohawk, Lake Central. Am I missing any?

      1. They’re all roll-ups in some form. American was a mash-up of several airlines as well. The early days were a bit insane. I’d say the best way to do this is start with post WWII.

  3. Cranky,

    As an America West guy, how do you feel about the end of US Airways? I’m sure in some way this must be difficult for you.

    1. SEAN – I’m somewhat ambivalent about the end of US Airways. My first “job” at an airline was as an intern for USAir as a sophomore in college in their DC sales office. So I do have a bit of a soft spot for that. Then again, that airline is long gone.

      Where I do feel a little tug on the heartstrings is the end of the AZ headquarters. I was an intern when that beautiful building was built on Tempe Town Lake, and I spent a lot of time there over the years. Having everyone go over to that faceless mess near DFW was where it hit me. But the name US Airways? Eh, it just makes me think of Steven Wolf. I’m fine with losing that connotation.

      1. Cranky,

        Who is Steven Wolf? Never herd of him.

        This reminds me of a real estate agent I had contact with a few months ago. Before getting into real estate, she was a Contenental FA based in Houston during the 80’s & early 90’s. She was telling me insane stories about the legendary Bob Crandle days as she put it.

    2. I for one am going to miss US Air. The one from the mid 80s and 90s. (I have nothing against the America West folks, I quite like them actually.)

      Its the airline of my youth. The one that took me to Disney World, the one I went to go see family on in California. I remember when they were touting the efficient midfield terminal at PIT, and bought the F100s. I also remember seeing a US DC-9 and a Piedmont DC-9 on the ramp next to each other in BGM with engine caps buttoned up for the night..

      US Airways was also the one that stranded me in Philadelphia overnight and overcompensated me with a $300 voucher and a free flight and a free movie in the hotel room. (Okay, that was Mesa under US Airways Express’s banner..)

        1. It probably was an F-28.. I was six or seven and never flew PI so I didn’t get a look at the safety card. (And I hadn’t yet gotten to identifying airplanes by just their exterior.

          Whatever it was it was the last inbound flight into BGM in 1986,1987, or 1988..

  4. Cranky, is it right that flights currently booked post-October 17 as AA*/US will have to send out schedule change notices just like ones that are currently booked as pure US since the operator is changing, even if the aircraft and times are exactly the same? DOT rules mean that a change in the operator allows a full, fee-free refund of the ticket if the customer desires, and that would apply here, right?

    1. Alex Hill – Well, there will be a schedule change notification, I assume, but since the flight number won’t change, no tickets have to be reissued. I don’t believe there’s any requirement to offer a fee-free refund for a change like this. Technically, American and US Airways are the same airline in the eyes of the FAA today anyway.

  5. Quite a trip that All American Aviation, Inc. has taken.

    1937 to 2015. The name “American” has been through a lot!

  6. Cranky,

    You mentioned that AA is using the US interface on top of Sabre. Does this mean that the AA agents now have to learn the US interface? If so, this could cause some disruption.

    1. Jamzz – Nope. AA agents will keep using native Sabre as they do today.
      Workstations can work with either system, but agents will use what they know best. Eventually they’ll decide to use a single interface, but they didn’t want to do that during the migration.

    2. I’ve read elsewhere that the overlay is an option for agents, not a requirement.

      So the ORD US agents will probably eventually have to learn the AA overlay. And the PHX AA agents will learn the US overlay.

  7. The “interface” is called QIK. It’s currently being used over Shares. Initially it will be used by LUS over SABRE at cutover. Native SABRE will fade into the sunset once LAA agents have been trained.
    Native SABRE will no longer be an option after that.

  8. I have a noticed a very common phenomenon when comparing airfare on the US Air and American web sites. When comparing some small routes, such as PHL to BOS, the same flight on the same plane, with the same flight number, is at least 100% more expensive when purchased on the AA site (twice as much!) for a basic non-refundable coach fare. With the full leap, I fear that the AA rates will be the only rate.

    I am still waiting for the United-American merger or United-Delta merger to be proposed.

    1. CF could comment more, but I think this is related to having two reservations systems together. I’ve seen this happen with frequent flier miles, but then its reversed.

      This relates to how airline pricing is done. For example, on a given route airlines setup 5 fares, A, B, C, D, and E. Then then put a number of seats in each of those fare buckets, which may be less than the number of seats on the plane. Usually there is only one reservation system and they’ll adjust the amount of seats as they need to.

      However, if they’re trying to split a number of seats in each bucket over two different systems the cheaper fares in bucket B might sell out on the AA system while they’re still available on the US system, so the system will show the more expensive C fares on the AA system. At a later AA may reduce the number of B fares in the US system and move them to the AA system.

      Once they’re on one system the prices should be normal.

      1. Nick – It actually shouldn’t be a problem at all. I haven’t really seen discrepancies between AA and US lately. In the beginning it was harder because inventory wasn’t easy to map between the two different setups. But now they’re mapped well and should be pricing the same. Not sure why it would be higher priced on AA.com, but it shouldn’t be. It’ll be fixed when the migration occurs.

        1. From what I saw with the frequent flier redemption is it got replenished on a Monday. It might be a batch job that runs in the middle of the night versus something that happens all the time.

        2. Currently, as of 3:19 pm on July 15, 2015, Flight 2012 from PHL to BOS is $72 on USAir.com, but the same flight is $143 on AA.com for non-ref coach. Here’s to hoping it never gets resolved. Let the airlines not fix it and allow folks well-versed who travel a lot actually get a slight advantage. So many of the pleasures of air travel, along with some traveler tricks, have been taken away.

          1. BL – Ah, I know what’s going on here. US Airways shows you one way pricing based on a roundtrip. AA.com shows the total roundtrip price. So it’s the same thing, but they just display it differently.

  9. Does AA use QIK or a GUI application on Sabre at the stations now as an option to ‘native’ for airport functions?

    1. PF – Nope, it’s all native now. In reservations, they do have a GUI they use, and US agents have been training and slowly transitioning over to that GUI.

  10. As a retired America West employee, the sooner they banish the filthy “U” word the better.

    Doug should have never have kept the name of that horrid airline full of entitlement whiners. Says something to his skill that he was able to make a profit with those employees.

  11. I for one am sad to see the end of US Airways. Just as I was sad to see the end of America West Airlines. As a Phoenix native I remember the beginning of that great airline in 1983 and I was proud to call AWA our hometown airline. AWA employed the greatest talent in the industry and they were the only airline I would fly. It was the AWA employees and the culture created at that airline that saved US Airways more than the financial benefits of the merger itself. It will be those same people and that same culture started all the way back in 1983 that will ultimately save American Airlines. The name on the sides of the plane, at the gates, and the headquarters might change, but the people working there won’t. AWA employees should hold their heads high with pride. The airline you started and built from the ground up has successfully acquired two other airlines larger than your own. You saved them both from bankruptcy and have now created the largest airline in the world. Treasure your history. Be proud of your past. Embrace your future. Your hometown family is cheering you on!

  12. My feelings are mixed. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and Allegheny was the airline of my childhood. So I’ve got a certain amount of nostalgia there. But the tumbleweeds blowing down the concourses at Greater Pitt cooled my enthusiasm for USAir quite a bit. It was such a good airport, too…

  13. My father flew for Lake Central, Ozark & TWA and he’d be amazed how full circle everything has come.

    Lake Central/Mohawk merge with Allegheny
    Allegheny changes name to US Air
    Piedmont/PSA merge with US Air
    US Air changes name to US Airways
    US Airways is bought out by America West, retains US Airways name

    Ozark merges with TWA
    America West/TWA Codeshare Agreement (never gets off ground due to AA buyout of TWA)
    TWA is bought out by American (TWA would file bankruptcy as part of purchase agreement)

    Trans Caribbean Airways merges with American
    Air California merges with American
    Reno Air merges with American

    American merges with US Airways, retains American name
    US Airways merges with American, retains American name

    I believe American should do a retro livery for Trans Caribbean Airways, Ozark, Mohawk & Lake Central if they want to parade their heritage completely.

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