Merged Airlines, Divergent IT

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2007-06-22 Print this article Print

The plane may all be in US Air colors, but the right hand of US Air often doesnt know what the left hand of the former America West is doing, and vice versa. Spare parts, passenger lists, flight information, you name it; if its tracked by computer it seems to be either fouled up or to require a great deal of manual effort by US Air staffers to make sense of it all. Now thats bad. Its also all too typical of enterprise IT company consolidation efforts. But when youre trying to get home, you dont really care. You just want to get home. My trip from San Francisco to Asheville should have taken me about 7 hours. It took me 27.
Summer vacations free of intrusions by work responsibilities are becoming increasingly rare. Read more here.
Its been closing on a year and a half since the two airlines started work on merging their IT operations. The plan was, as Joe Beery, CIO of US Airways, told eWEEK at the time, to switch over from SABRE to SHARES with outsourcing powerhouse EDS doing the heavy lifting on the reservation systems. The rest of IT was going to be brought in-house on the grounds that it would be cheaper that way. Based on what I saw last week, they got what they paid for: a system that doesnt work when the going gets tough. Whats even worse is that my misadventure is all too typical of summer 2007 travel. Its not just US Air. United had a 2-hour computer outage that delayed nearly 270 domestic and international flights on June 20. Twenty-four domestic flights were also canceled. A full 24 hours later—remember what I said about there being no slack?—United was still playing catch-up. Its not just the airlines. On June 8, a major failure in a U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) computer combined with severe thunderstorms in the eastern United States to cause serious delays around the entire country. So between cheap airlines with bad IT and the FAA, whats a summer business traveler to do? I ended up talking with a lot of my fellow SFO > CLT victims. They are all finding that summer air travel is being a real misery. They see the same problems I did. In addition, they noted that the airlines have cut back on flights, spare aircrafts and spare parts. In short, when any single flight goes wrong, the entire system quickly follows. They —and there were a couple of million-mile travelers in the crew—recommended always taking the first flight out in the morning if you hope to make it from A to B in a single day. That way, even when—notice I didnt say if—you run into a delay, you still have a shot of getting to your meetings. Next, no matter what the bean-counters say about costs, always fly direct. The logic is simple. Even if the flights pricier, it still costs less in the long run to make it to your meetings rather than waste time cooling your heels at an airport. Finally, and they were quite serious about this one: If humanly possible, reschedule your meetings for the fall. Several said summer 07 is the worst season theyve ever seen for travel. I cant disagree. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

I'm editor-at-large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. That's a fancy title that means I write about whatever topic strikes my fancy or needs written about across the Ziff Davis Enterprise family of publications. You'll find most of my stories in Linux-Watch, DesktopLinux and eWEEK. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, I worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects.

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