Flying American This Weekend? Be Prepared!

The merger between American and US Airways is almost complete, after a process of over two years. So far we’ve seen the airlines merge their frequent flyer programs and get on a single FAA operating certificate.

This weekend the last major step of the integration will occur, whereby American and US Airways are combining reservations systems.

Reservations-Integration

That’s scheduled to happen on Saturday, October 17, 2015. At that point US Airways flights will officially cease to exist, and there’s even a commemorative last US Airways flight to mark the occasion.

US-Airways-PHX

Anyway, American has been doing a great job overall with the merger in terms of managing expectations and completing things on the promised timeline. While I think the merger has gone down in an almost textbook perfect fashion in terms of communication and execution, this coming weekend’s task is the biggest of all.

We see computer systems melt down all the time for seemingly insignificant reasons. We saw it just a few days ago at Southwest, for example, whereby hundreds of flights were canceled.

While I’m confident that American will do everything they can to make the integration of the reservations systems go down as smoothly as possible, it’s a huge task, and I’d say there’s a decent chance of it not going 100% smoothly.

This is true regardless of whether you’re flying American or US Airways metal, though I’d say the highest risk is if you’re on US Airways metal, since their system will be integrated into American’s.

So realistically, how could this play out?

  • Everything goes smoothly and you don’t even realize the world’s largest airline is being put onto one reservations system overnight
  • There are some minor computer glitches lasting a short amount of time, which could impact only certain flights, certain airports, etc.
  • Given the scale of this integration, something could go terribly wrong and all flights get canceled for hours on end

I think the latter is improbable, but I don’t think it can be ruled out.

So if you’re flying on American or US Airways this weekend or early next week, what can you do to prepare?

  • Arrive at the airport plenty early, even earlier than you otherwise would.
  • Check in online as early as possible, in case there’s a system issue closer to when you actually travel. Download your boarding pass to Passbook, and also take a screenshot of the boarding pass.
  • Don’t count on your flight being on time. If you have an important meeting you absolutely have to attend, leave more of a buffer than you usually would.
  • Know your alternatives. In the event that things do get bad, have backup options ready. For example, American has interline agreements with several other carriers (though not Delta anymore), whereby you can be rebooked on them in the event of irregular operations. Know their flight schedules and availability, so you can present an option should there be serious issues.
  • Be patient/nice. I think every frontline employee at American/US Airways is dreading this weekend. Especially at US Airways, given that their agents are learning a completely new system. Smile, and don’t hesitate to start any interaction with “I know you must be having a crappy weekend…”

Chicago-Delays

Bottom line

I’ll be flying this weekend, and am certainly hoping things go smoothly. I’m not counting on it, though, and will certainly have alternatives ready to go, plus a good attitude.

Funny enough, as I finished writing this post I received an email from American reminding me about my travel this weekend and the upcoming milestone.

American-Integration

Are you flying American this weekend? Are you expecting things to go smoothly, or do you think it’ll be a mess?

Comments

  1. I’ve got two flights Saturday (segment run). Good news is that I’m flying pmAA, so hopefully less in the way of screwups, but this should be fun…

  2. Thanks. I’m flying thru ORD this weekend – not on AA – so i wouldn’t have known. And am now prepared for the potential lines and crowds.

  3. I’m flying on Friday (not expecting any problems) and Sunday evening. I’m aware that problems could happen and linger into Sunday, but not worried about it. I’m slightly concerned about being able to check in & get my board pass for Sunday’s flight 24 hours in advance on Saturday. The 2 cities I’m flying between have multiple flights per day, so my only real plan to be patient and nice and look into hotel rates near the airport for Sunday night just in case.

  4. segment run to the west coast! hoping for the best but if things get dicey, won’t let myself get upset about it.

  5. If you’re flying American this weekend, pray that you don’t have an FA named Tim working your flight.

  6. I’m flying a former US flight on Sunday but it’s a short hop with multiple flights a day and Southwest also has about one an hour, so think it should be fine. Wanted to fly on Saturday but decided the potential mess wasn’t worth it.

  7. I overheard a flight attendant mentioning they were moving DCA over a couple of days ahead of time, although couldn’t verify which systems they were referring to specifically – customer-facing or FA-only.

  8. Just FYI, Barclays is keen on keeping Aviator card customers…didn’t want to pay the annual fee, called in and said I wanted to cancel, cancellation rep agreed to waive the fee (not even via statement credit, just flat out waive) and a deal to spend $1k on the card in 3 months to get 5k bonus miles. Citi refused to do anything and even had no retention deals last month, they’re obviously not worried about keeping business.

  9. I have a flight that was booked with US Airways for next year. It doesn’t show up on the AA site. I called and spoke to AA’s tech support and they can’t figure out why it’s not showing up. AA says they see my flight on their screen and says my flight is fine. What do you think? Do I have anything to worry about?

  10. Small thing, but from my understanding Southwest didn’t cancel any flights. Around 20% were delayed though.

  11. I’m flying AA this weekend from DFW-ORD (Friday) and ORD-DFW (Sunday).

    I’ll get to experience a before-and-after of the integration.

    What I’m most worried about is that on Sunday, I will not have my upgrade clear (flying the 787 from ORD to DFW that evening).

  12. One additional thing, based upon experience living through other systems failures – bring printouts of everything. If you can get paper versions of your boarding passes, especially bring those – don’t rely on mobile systems.

    I’ve learned to my peril that if you have paper copies, you can probably get through security to the lounge even if everything else is down.

    Greg

  13. I have an overnight flight booked for Sat 10/17. Which carriers have interline agreements with AA?
    Thanks.

  14. Guess I don’t count as far as AA is concerned. I’m flying this weekend, am a Plat Exec, and did not get a reminder from AA like you did.

  15. Thursday/Friday SCL-DFW-MIA
    Monday MIA-DFW-SCL

    I’m packing a lot of minis, although with all of the oneworld options out of MIA, I think everything will go well for me even if it doesn’t for AA…

  16. I am flying us air Friday and American Monday.
    I would love to get stranded on Monday at the beach

  17. Looking forward to this ! Heading to the home land of US Airways. Phoenix ! With a 2 hour turn around back to Houston. The other day the family went to Philly and was a mess getting thru TSA !

    I will have my EYES out for TIM ! If I see him on MY flight I will tell him to get off the plane or my family will. Since we all are Ex. Plat it would be worth it to take a later flight.

    PS. For the people that boo AA for removing the person from the plane I boo the flyers that did not get up and leave that flight. Damn

  18. I’m doing a quick run on Sat on AA LAX-DFW-DEN-LAX. I will take a small overnight bag just in case.

    Thanks for the paper tip @greg99 I will print out my passes as backups.

    This should be fun!

  19. @Jason – “I boo the flyers that did not get up and leave that flight. Damn”

    Maybe they needed to get to where the flight was going?

  20. There may be something to your post, lucky.

    Was delayed yesterday on aa953 to eze by 13+ hours, if there are no further delays! We are departing later today. The incoming flight was also delayed coming from ord. Could be technical issues but there was also at least another flight delayed. A DC flight that was cancelled because the crew was timed out or tired. Seems to be scheduling issues around these two flights as I cannot imagine as not having the resources to switch equipment or reschedule other flights to operate them.

    Oh by the way, treatment was pretty average, to be polite. No effort to put anyone on a different flight. Hotel vouchers without the transfer voucher, which made getting on a transfer van to the hotel an impossibility, and no one coordinating anything. Wasn’t given the option to return home for the night -a car would have been $400 return. If useful, multi year Exec plat, traveling F.

    If you know, what compensations are mandated by law and what can actually be expected in situations like this? Thank you

    J

  21. You are right. Even I have place and things to do. I will be curious if it ever happens when I am on a plane to see what would I do. Until we are tested I would only suggest what I would want to do. I have not been on a flight to have a person removed but I have been on some that I wanted to remove myself. ha ha
    I am looking forward to Saturday and look forward to a perfect merger day. I just wander about the luggage…..

    Jason Fisher

  22. Julian .. I am interested in how Ex. Plt. with AA get different service when there is a flight delay. Over 2 hours I understand things change alot in favor of the customer. I did get a voch. 1K on AA for an international delay of 6 hours this year. Then was told tough luck when the flight from PHX to IAH was no longer available but had a ticket and seat for. I do not like to negotiate at an airport and would like to know more about what protections there are. I would fall back to your credit card to see what protection they have.

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