United Assigns Flights To Dead Pilots?


United is still having computer problems three years on after the merger with the Continental took place. There is a very good piece on Bloomberg about the issues (access here).


The recent flight cancellations weren’t entirely due to bad weather or the new longer rest rules mandated by FAA, but also due to United losing track of hundreds of pilots.

United moved the crew scheduling of all of its pilots to a system used by Continental on December 30, 2013, and it hasn’t gone smoothly.

The new technology required three passwords, said a United captain, and was prone to crashing. Once logged on, he found it difficult to navigate and the information that was available was largely out of date. Flights were even assigned to pilots who are retired or deceased. When pilots tried to call for help, they sometimes sat on hold for more than an hour.

Bloomberg then published a long list of major computer snafus that the airline has had:

The airline suffered flight delays, long check-in lines and problems with check-in kiosks in March 2012 after the Apollo passenger reservations system from the old United was switched over to Continental’s Shares program.

Five months later, backup systems failed to prevent a computer network malfunction that disabled communications with airports and United’s website, delaying 580 flights.

Also in 2012, a computer breakdown caused a flight to take off about 20,000 pounds (9,071 kilograms) heavier than pilots believed because the carrier’s weight estimate assumed the coach section of the Boeing Co. (BA) 737-900 was empty when it was full, people familiar with the incident said at the time.

In November of that year, a computerized system that coordinates pre-flight activities across the U.S. failed for about two hours. At least 523 United flights were delayed, according to online data service FlightStats.com


It is good that even the press is finally starting to question the move of United to use the technology from the much smaller Continental.

Merging of airlines is never easy, but the mess with the United/Continental merger is still dragging on three years later. One would imagine that heads would finally start rolling at the top.

If your recent United flight was delayed due to late crew and later canceled, maybe it was assigned to pilots that were long gone and not just late.

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