United Airlines struggles with computer issues after merger

A United Airlines jet prepares to land at Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.

Jeremy Hobson:United Airlines passengers are crossing their fingers this morning - hoping that the reservation system meltdown that delayed hundreds of flights yesterday doesn't repeat itself.

The computer glitch is being blamed on the airline's merger with Continental, as Marketplace's Mark Garrison reports.


Mark Garrison: United’s technical team is scrambling to solve the computer problems that caused airport lines hundreds of angry people deep. Airline analyst Julius Maldutis says such issues are typical with big acquisitions.

Julius Maldutis: Mergers in the airline industry have never worked except in very rare cases, so it’s not that surprising that United Airlines is experiencing some operational problems.

Mergers are supposed to cut costs by allowing companies to combine systems. Reducing redundancy, in corporate-speak. Having one computer system for the combined airline is cheaper in theory. But it has proven more expensive with all the delays and passenger fury. Maldutis says the troubles aren’t over yet for passengers, because integrating two big airlines doesn’t happen fast.

Maldutis: Typically it takes about four years.

And there could be more turbulence ahead for all carriers, depending on what oil prices do.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter and substitute host for Marketplace, based in New York.

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