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Merged United and Continental operations off to a bumpy start

March 05, 2012|By Hugo Martin
  • Although not all Continental planes have been repainted with United's colors, over the weekend all flights previously booked on Continental became United flights.
Although not all Continental planes have been repainted with United's… (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times )

The latest step in the merger of two of the nation's largest airlines -- United Air Lines and Continental Airlines -- was plagued with glitches over the weekend, but most of the airline's flights were on schedule by Sunday.

The merger announced in 2010 will form the largest airline in the nation, under the name United. Many planes have yet to be repainted to carry the new United logo, but airline officials say the merger should be completed by the end of the year.

On Saturday, all flights previously booked on Continental became United flights. Also on Saturday, all United booking data was moved to the reservation platform previously used by Continental. Meanwhile, the Continental website was shut down, with all on-line traffic directed to United.com.

United officials acknowledged some glitches.

"With a project of this magnitude, it is natural that we would have a few technical issues, and we expected and prepared for operational challenges," United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said in a statement. "We had numerous back-up processes in place to assist our employees during the transition, and we are continuing to work hard to take care of our customers."

According to flightstats.com, a website that reports airline statistics, United had a 69% on-time rating on Saturday, with 108 flights delayed more than 45 minutes and 10 canceled flights out of a total of 1,042 flights. The worst delays for the airline seem to be at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, which had a 53% on-time rating on Saturday.

By Sunday, however, the airline's overall on-time performance improved significantly to 84% with 22 departures delayed more than 45 minutes and only two canceled flights out of a total of 1,083 flights.

On United's Facebook page, several passengers complained over the weekend about waiting on the phone for nearly two hours for a United customer representative for help with reservation problems.

"Infuriating," a United passenger posted on Facebook. "I finally got someone, but not before spending a total of almost 10 hours on hold with them in total calls over the weekend. The worst!"

Others complained that the new United website is confusing and cluttered.

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