United Airlines will move off its Apollo reservations system this week and migrate to SHARES, the passenger services system used by Continental, its merger partner.
Travel agents can expect an estimated four-hour disruption in United’s automated systems and in access to its flight information in GDSs. If all goes as planned, the interruption will be confined to pre-dawn hours when most North American agents are still asleep.
The historic migration will begin late in the evening of March 2 and is expected to be completed in the early hours of March 3.
Beginning at about 1 a.m. EST on March 3, the carrier’s systems, including its connections to GDSs and its website functionality, will be unavailable.
Migration of a passengers services system (PSS) is a complex undertaking, so the exact length of time cannot be predicted, but it is expected to be about four hours.
When the integration is completed, Continental Airlines will cease to exist. The CO code will pass into history, as will Continental’s 005 ticket stock.
Rahsaan Johnson, a United spokesman, said the carrier had worked diligently to ensure a smooth transition.
“We’ve had four dress rehearsals,” he said.
In every case where issues have been discovered during the rehearsals, the carrier has set up manual workarounds, he said.
United plans to have “hundreds of employees, particularly in United hubs,” to deal with every point of sale and every passenger touch-point, he said.
Avoid last-minute check-in
Nevertheless, for the migration period and in the days immediately following, Johnson recommended that agents advise clients not to wait until the last minute to check in online or at the airport.
He noted that some flights from points in Asia will depart earlier or later in order to avoid the actual transition period.
Some flights from Asia have been re-scheduled to depart earlier or later to ensure the flights depart when the departure control system is available.
“In general, we think we’re ready for it,” Johnson said.
Here are a few additional “nuts and bolts” that agents need to know for the transition:
• CO flight schedules, fare and availability displays in GDSs will change to UA.
• Passenger name records containing CO segments will automatically change to UA segments.
• PNRs containing CO segments with schedule changes for UA segments need to be updated.
Some seats unavailable in GDSs
Sabre and Travelport agents will still be able to book qualifying passengers into Economy Plus seats, he said, but for an undetermined period after the cutover, they will not be able to sell the seats through their GDSs.
United, Sabre, Travelport and HP, the owner of SHARES, are working to establish new XML connections to restore the capability.
Amadeus, which has announced plans to offer the capability this summer, also is working on building a connection.
Tickets issued on Continental’s 005 stock will continue to be honored after the cutover. But if they are changed in any way after the integration, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, they will require special handling, because the new ticket must be issued on United’s 016 stock.
For that reason, United is encouraging agents to book Continental flights as United code-share flights and plating tickets on 016 stock. That will reduce the number of tickets that will require special handling after the integration.
During the four-hour shutdown, United will perform reissue and exchange transactions for any changes to ticketed PNRs on CO 005 stock.
Impact in other areas
Frequent flyer accounts: United’s 11-digit frequent traveler number will change to an eight-character alphanumeric account number. United will continue to accept Mileage Plus numbers 11 digits through the end of March.
Special service requirements: Agents will need to re-request special service requirements (SSRs) for any CO segments containing SSRs that are not yet confirmed.