Major US airlines struck by IT migration issues

Passengers suffer delays as United and Continental Airlines migrate to combined booking system following merger

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Airline passengers in the US suffered delays this weekend as two of the country's largest operators integrated their IT systems.

United and Continental Airlines agreed to merge in 2010, and this weekend moved to a unified bookings system.

Despite months of preparation, the migration triggered malfunctioning check-in kiosks, which caused delays for passengers. "We did have some issues with our kiosks and at times that slowed the check-in process," a spokesperson for United Continental Holdings, the combined company, told the Reuters news agency.

Over the weekend, the number of flights leaving on time – within 14 minutes of flight time – dipped below the company's target of 80% to around 75%.

According to a report in travel agency news site Travel Market Report, the migration involved moving passenger records from United's system, based on the Apollo application from specialist develop Travelport, onto Continental's SHARES booking system, which was developed by EDS, now HP Enterprise Services.

Meanwhile, Continental's flight booking code 'CO' was discontinued as the Continental brand is due to phased out.

The company reportedly ran four dress rehearsals for the migration, and trained 15,000 staff on the new system. It had warned travel agents that the booking system would be unavailable for at least four hours.

United Continental joins the ranks of major organisations disrupted by migration issues. Some customers of Alliance & Leicester were locked out of their online bank accounts in 2010 as banking giant Santander, which acquired the building society that year, suffered glitches while moving customer records onto its system.

Last year, customers of retail giant Tesco's banking services had issues accessing their online accounts as the company migrated off Royal Bank of Scotland's legacy systems. Following those migration issues, Tesco Bank has since delayed the launch of various services including mortgages, a decision the company says will cost around £40 million in lost sales.