Tuesday, May 15, 2007

US Airways CEO apologizes for botching computer system change

By Tom Belden
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER


US Airways chief executive Doug Parker apologized to shareholders and employees today for management botching the airline's switch to a new computer reservations-and-ticketing system earlier this year.
Parker, speaking in Philadelphia at the company's annual meeting, repeated other recent public statements he's made, acknowledging that the company had not made sure the new system would work properly before launching it March 4.

Those problems and winter storms resulted in US Airways and its Philadelphia International Airport hub having the nation's worst record for on-time performance and customer service in March, according to records kept by the U.S. Department of Transportation.


The move to the new system "was poorly managed by us," Parker said in answer to pointed quuestions from two leaders of the Communications Workers of America, which represents ticket and gate agents. "It was not employees' fault."

John Hanson, president of the CWA local for New Jersey, New York and New England, told the CEO that even when the new system is functioning, it can take 10 to 15 minutes to rebook a passenger who has missed a connection, a job that once took one to three minutes. The "reservations migration," as airline workers call it, "set us back 10 years," Hanson said.

Parker said fixing the glitches that still infect the system is being done with input from front-line employees. "We can't talk to each other enough," he said. "I hear your frustration."
Dennis Eichfeld, executive vice president of CWA's Philadelphia local, asked if the 1,000 additional airport workers US Airways says it will hire here this summer will be enough to handle the usual summer-vacation surge in customers. Staffing for the airport's international operations hasn't been increased adequately to handle the 19 daily European flights the airline has scheduled this summer, he said.

Parker replied that the extra employees are needed throughout the airport but that he would look into the needs of the international operations. The meeting, at the Radisson Warwick Hotel in Center City, drew a sparse group of about 20, most of them company officials or employees.