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Southwest reports few snags with switches to new system

Posted May 9

— Airlines appear to be getting better at updating technology systems.

Southwest Airlines completed a switch to a new reservation system Tuesday and seemingly did it with relatively few glitches.

The airline says the new system, from Amadeus IT Group, will help it improve flight scheduling and other tasks and also bring in more revenue from selling add-on services.

People were unable to search for international flights on Southwest's mobile app — that function isn't set up yet. Other minor issues arose but no major ones related to the new system, said airline spokesman Brad Hawkins.

For years, Southwest labored with a system that lacked the capabilities of those used by other big airlines, such as selling tickets in foreign currencies and rebooking passengers automatically instead of manually in some circumstances.

Dallas-based Southwest said more than 1,500 people from the airline and Amadeus worked for three years on the project. Plans were under way in July 2016 when Southwest suffered a huge technology outage, which it blamed on a faulty router. That breakdown forced the cancellation of 2,300 flights.

The airline had already been running some of its international operation through the new system and was finding and fixing glitches, President Tom Nealon said recently. That phased approach mimicked the strategy used successfully by American Airlines when it gradually combined many of its technology systems with those of merger partner US Airways in October 2015.

By contrast, United Airlines continued to be plagued by outages long after combining its systems with those of Continental after their 2010 merger. Experts thought United did too much at one time instead of making the technology switch in smaller steps.

Delta, which was judged to have pulled off a successful marriage of systems after buying Northwest Airlines, grounded more than 2,000 flights last August after a fire and outage in a data center.

The Delta and United experiences suggest that it is still too early for Southwest to celebrate a successful transition. Tuesday was a good start, but glitches can pop up months or years later.

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