United Airlines in the wee hours of March 3, 2012

There have been oodles of articles this week noting United Airlines’ system migration from Apollo to Shares this coming weekend, but very few offer any type of inside scoop as to what exactly will be happening. I found this one from a travel agency perspective that sheds a bit more light on the process and thought a few points are worth sharing.

a computer with a screen on itAmong the highlights:

  • An estimated four-hour disruption to United’s automated systems and access to flight information in GDSs will begin at 1:00am EST March 3.
  • Website functionality will be down during the same time period.
  • During the “dress rehearsals†when issues popped up, manual workarounds had to be setup.
  • United will have “hundreds of employees†on hand to deal with post-conversion issues.
  • Some flights from points in Asia will depart earlier to later to avoid the transition period.
  • PNRs containing CO segments will automatically change to UA segments.
  • PNRs containing CO segments with schedule changes for UA segments will need to be manually updated.
  • Changes to Continental tickets issued on 005 stock after the integration will require special handling.
  • United will continue to accept 11-digit Mileage Plus numbers through the end of March.
  • Travel agencies will not be able to sell Economy Plus seats through their GDSs after the integration (no ETA for a fix).

According to the United representative this reporter spoke with, “In general, we think we’re ready for it.†Not exactly the most reassuring statement, actually.

Here are my recommendations to best prepare your own itineraries before the changeover:

  • Print (or save to a PDF) all itineraries with Continental and United and ensure the ticket numbers are included (they’ll start with either 005 or 016).
  • Print (or save to a PDF) both your Mileage Plus and OnePass account activity to-date.
  • Clear any schedule changes appearing on your Continental and United itineraries.

It will be an interesting few days (or weeks?) ahead. I’m flying mid-week next week, but I actually wish I had planned flights for this weekend just to experience the airport scene first-hand on Day One.


  1. Well, I depart for BAH via IAD early Saturday AM, so I guess I’ll be one of the first to enjoy the chaos. Fortunately it’s booked on 016 stock, so if anything goes wrong I won’t have to deal with that “special handling.” Should make for an interesting trip report when I get back.

  2. I am flying PMCO SFO-EWR on Sunday, returning on PMUA on Monday evening. My outbound flight is ticketed on 016 stock, so i’m hoping all will go well.

  3. Y2K all over again. Oh wait, that was a non-event. One can always hope for a glitch to release every seats for award booking systemwide at economy pricing. Be ready to book…

    • @sil: 037 is US Airways ticket stock & you should be fine. I believe the main issue is converting 005 to 016 since 005 will cease to exist.

  4. I’m going to miss .Bomb. Personally I refrained from using the Continental site. I think the interface is inferior. When I compared I always found pricing at ual.com to be better than at Continental.

    I guess I should be prepared to book a ticket to somewhere tomorrow — just in case.

  5. Nightmare! March 3, 2012 DEN to SFO. Could not check in electronically, went to Premier desk and issued ticket with correct seat (1A) and boarding group 4…wtf?
    From that point on, all was handled in fashion I remember from the 1980’s.
    The only bright spot was when a group of road warriors congealed at the gate desk and swapped UAL horror stories. When those ran out we switched to “Help Desk” call nightmare stories.
    2 days post travel, FF miles from flight not showing up on account and no way to check. The ticket number printed on boarding pass stub has 14 digits and the web site wants a number with 13 digits….
    As I write, UAL Premier Help Desk has a wait time of over one hour.
    Yikes! I live in San Francisco and could fly to LA in less time on Virgin America.
    Now there’s an idea!

    • @Jude: Thanks for your report… based on what United is putting out there as far as press releases, things appear to have smoothed out yesterday. I’m flying tomorrow and will be curious to see how everything goes. Hope your miles posted!

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