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American prepares for res system cutover, retirement of ‘US Airways’

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American Airlines has “spared no expense” in preparing for the Oct. 17 cutover of US Airways’ reservations system to American’s Sabre system, a senior executive said.

“We are all completely committed to getting this right,” American chief information officer Maya Leibman told reporters during an Oct. 12 conference call. The reservations system cutover, which is considered the last major milestone of the American-US Airways integrationvisible to the public, will enable American to officially retire the US Airways brand.

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Through 2016, there will still be aircraft painted in US Airways livery and employees wearing US Airways uniforms, but from Oct. 17 flights will all operate under the “AA” code and all ticket bookings will be with “American.” All airport facilities will be branded American from Oct. 17 as well.

Leibman acknowledged that the reservations system cutover will be “a very complex process,” leading American to do everything it can to mitigate the risk that something will go wrong. Cognizant of recent glitches that have disrupted US airlines’ operations, including one at American in September, Dallas-based American will have a 24/7 command center staffed by 1,000 people from Oct. 14-Oct. 27 to immediately “triage” any problems with the reservations system, Leibman said. “One thing we don’t want to do is let our guard down during this entire process,” she explained.

The system cutover will affect 9,000 computers in the American/US Airways system, and the most intense focus will be on US Airways’ legacy hubs in Charlotte, Phoenix and Philadelphia. Well in advance, American reduced its flight schedule at those three airports by 11% Oct. 17 compared to a normal autumn Saturday, easing the pressure a bit. Overall, American will operate about 200 fewer flights Oct. 17 than on a typical October Saturday.

American said it has conducted about 1 million hours of training for around 50,000 employees in preparation for the system cutover. It has also done numerous technology tests. “We have really tested the heck out of everything,” Leibman said, adding that American is as “prepared as possible” for Oct. 17, but is also ready to “triage as effectively as possible” if something goes wrong. “No technology leader can say with 100% certainty that nothing [will go wrong],” she said. “If they do, don’t buy a bridge from them.”

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