US Airways' Ticketing Problems Persist

Kirby: "Right now, we are running the airline as if the kiosks are going to be down indefinitely."


US Airways continued to struggle with a faulty reservation-and-ticketing system Monday, and attempted to keep lines down at key airports by adding workers and encouraging travelers to use the Internet for flight check-ins.

"It's running better (Monday) than it did (Sunday), but we don't have it fully licked yet," US Airways President Scott Kirby said Monday afternoon in an interview. "Right now, we are running the airline as if the kiosks are going to be down indefinitely."

Airports particularly hard hit by the computer problems: Las Vegas, Boston, Charlotte and Reagan Washington National.

On Sunday, US Airways combined its reservation system with the America West system. The airlines merged in 2005, and integration of the reservation systems has been a major issue in creating a unified carrier.

When the new system started over the weekend, it failed to communicate with ticketing kiosks at airports. That forced all passengers to check in at airport counters, creating massive lines. On a normal day, 40% of passengers would use kiosks to check in, Kirby said.

Some passengers on Monday still faced lengthy waits: 90 minutes in Philadelphia, and 45 minutes in Charlotte, for example. But those times were better than Sunday, when waits at times lasted about two hours, Kirby said.

According to airline performance tracker FlightStats, just 14% of US Airways Sunday flights scheduled to leave by early evening departed on time.

On Monday, a day when domestic airlines were performing relatively well, US Airways had improved on-time departures to about 22% of its total flights, FlightStats said.

Airline management had developed contingency plans for the computer switch, ran dress rehearsals and flew staff from Phoenix, the hometown airport for US Airways, to help at eastern airports, Kirby said. But the carrier hadn't specifically prepared for the possibility of a widespread kiosk problem.

To alleviate passenger waits Monday morning, about five senior US Airways officials went to Charlotte to help check in passengers and direct lines. At Philadelphia, shuttle buses carried passengers to different terminals to balance passenger loads at ticket counters.

Bill Navey, an engineer from Charlotte who flies US Airways every Sunday, says employees had been warning him for weeks not to travel on Sunday or Monday. He still flew Sunday, but arrived at the airport earlier than normal. "There were lines everywhere. Nobody was directing traffic," Navey said. It took him more than an hour to get his boarding pass.

"It was awful," said business traveler Steven Friedman, who spent 90 minutes Sunday checking in at Washington Reagan National for an hour-long New York shuttle.

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