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Another merger milestone for American Airlines

Another milestone in the merger of American Airlines and US Airways is scheduled to happen this Saturday, Oct. 1.

The crew schedules for 15,000 pilots, flight dispatch, and movement of American's 1,500 aircraft will be combined into a single flight operating system. Until now, pilots at US Airways and predecessor America West, and American Airlines had separate pilot and aircraft software systems.

The cutover, which will begin late Friday and continue Saturday, should not be noticed by passengers. To make the transition go smoothly, American has reduced the number of flights Saturday, said Maya Leibman, chief information officer, on a conference call with reporters.

American merged with US Airways in 2013, adopting the American name. Last Oct. 17, the combined carrier switched to a single computer reservation system for booking flights.

American merged frequent-flier programs in March 2015.  Moving to one flight operating system will create a single pilot workforce and will allow inter-changeability of aircraft across American's route network, said Kimball Stone, vice president of flight operations.

"Pilots will have the ability to fly any aircraft they are qualified for, at any crew base throughout the system," Stone said.

However, the union representing American's 15,000 pilots said it was cut out of the planning process for the new flight system integration. "Flipping the switch to integrate three separate flight operating systems in a single day poses a significant challenge for our airline," said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association.

The union "offered to help in the transition to a single flight operating system. Unfortunately, management did not take us up on our offer," he said.
To facilitate a smooth transition, pilot volunteers will operate a phone bank "to assist pilots flying the line as the airline merges three complex computer systems into one," Tajer said.

American said the cutover to a single system will not have an impact on  operational procedures in the cockpit or how pilots fly the jets. Rather, the new system will affect how pilots bid for trips, and their work schedules, Stone said.

Phoenix-based former America West pilots will be able to bid for flights outside of Phoenix for the first time since the 2005 merger with US Airways, Stone said. Although US Airways and America West formally merged 11 years ago, America West pilots flew mainly in the Western U.S. and "legacy" US Airways pilots have tended to fly mainly in the East.

With the transition to a single flight operating system, all pilots will be able to bid for vacancies at crew bases anywhere in the American system. The pilots also have a new integrated seniority list.