In a little more than two weeks, United Airlines will switch reservations systems from Apollo to Shares, merging all itineraries from Continental and United onto one platform. Other carriers who recently made similar technology shifts were plagued with problems when they flipped the switch, but United is hoping to avoid similar embarrassments.
United’s CEO Jeff Smisek was quoted last week in a Chicago Tribune article as saying, “We’ve had four full-scale dress rehearsals, all the data transfers, and everything is appropriate. We are exceedingly well prepared for it.” Nothing but assurances would flow from the mouth of a CEO, of course, so we’ll all just have to wait and see what manifests come March 3.
When Shares was announced as the system winning out in the merger back in December 2010, one United source mentioned it was the best customer and employee alternative, and its ability to handle migration “in a reasonable amount of time” was key. Having worked on both Apollo and Shares at my previous travel industry positions, I can tell you Apollo far exceeds Shares in its flexibility and ability to handle complex itinerary and ticketing functions, but as the United source mentioned, Shares won out in part because it is the quickest short-term solution. I also know for a fact it’s far cheaper than Apollo. By 2017 – long after any merger pangs – I predict United will abandon Shares for a more flexible and robust GDS.
When Virgin America switched to a new reservations system last year, it suffered website and airport kiosk issues for weeks. US Airways had similar glitches in 2007 when it merged with America West Airlines, causing airport delays and the inability to check-in online. So, while we might see similar issues once United makes the change, I’m taking a simple step to ensure I have all my reservation data in-hand.
For all of my Continental and United reservations post-March, I have printed copies of not only the itinerary, but the e-ticket receipts showing the ticket numbers – probably the most critical data element should things really go awry and backup is needed. I’d encourage everyone to do the same as it might just make your airport experience a little smoother in the coming weeks.