Thursday/ United-Continental ‘marriage’ update

Bloomberg Businessweek gives a very interesting update about the merger between United and Continental Airlines in their latest issue. The picture is from my iPad .. I’m still getting used to reading my magazines this way!

The new merged airline sent enough coffee into the sky last year to brew 62 million cups.  (And Starbucks that was served on the old United has lost the contract for the new merged airline).  Continental people in Houston have had to move to Chicago where the new headquarters is. But one of the biggest and most frightening challenges so far has been merging the flight information systems.  If data were corrupted in the switch-over from two systems into one, the airline could find itself without vital information about its flights : destination and arrival times, flight numbers, or locations.  For the final test last October, they flew an empty 737 Continental jet from Houston to El Paso, made believe it ran into a mechanical problem and made it turn around.  At Houston they changed the flight number and sent it to Austin. Everything worked and the information was updated in the United system.  Then on Nov 2 just after midnight, they took the United system off-line.  For the next hour the United flights were tracked manually while the Continental system information was flowed into the United system. Plans were in place for mass cancellations of flights the next morning if there were problems with the cut-over.  At 1.23 am the entire Ops Center was looking at the the tracking screens as the United system came back on-line, and burst into applause. The Continental flights showed up. The only small glitch was that flights that had crossed the international dateline during the outage had 24 hours added to their arrival time.

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