American Airlines inches closer to another merger-related milestone

 American Airlines is getting close to another post-merger milestone. Photo: American Airlines. 

American Airlines is getting close to another post-merger milestone. Photo: American Airlines. 

Last week, I wrote about how United is still having labor integration issues almost six years after its merger. This surprised many of you, but it's not that unusual. Airlines are complicated, and it can take a long time to truly combine two companies.

As far as labor negotiations go, American Airlines, which closed its merger with US Airways in late 2013, probably is in better shape than United. American reached a single contract with all of its flight attendants in 2014 and a single contract with pilots early last year.  United has one pilot contract, but two flight attendant contracts, which leads to inefficiencies. 

But even though it has better labor relations, American is still running two distinct operations. If pilots and flight attendants flew worked for American before the merger, they fly American planes. If they worked for US Airways, they fly US Airways planes. 

The reason? It's all about technology - specifically what's called the Flight Operating System. 

"The Flight Operating System (FOS) is the IT hub of the American Airlines operation," American told employees in a recent newsletter.  "It’s not a single program, but rather a complex system behind which more than 500 independent applications run. These applications control the movement of more than 1,600 mainline and regional aircraft, crew scheduling, dispatch and other operational needs."

Having two computer systems means American is not as efficient as it could be.

"A single system will allow these groups to run the operation as one airline," the airline said in the newsletter. "American will be able to better optimize our crews and network by putting the right aircraft in the right markets."

By by the spring of 2017, American says it will solve all of its technological problems. By that point, any crew will be able to fly on any plane. 

Amazingly, American says it will take 1.8 million man hours of computer programming to get the job done. It is also costing $280 million.

"Moving the entire American operation into FOS is among the largest and most complex integration efforts any airline has ever undertaken,” Todd Christy, vice president for airline operations technology, told the newsletter. 

Here's a somewhat handy chart American created to show what's happening. 

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