United at last: Continental Airlines no longer exists

March 3, 2012 4:30:11 PM PST
Houston-based Continental Airlines, which was once one of largest airlines in the nation, has officially disappeared.

The last Continental Flight 1267 departed from Phoenix on Friday and arrived in Cleveland Saturday morning as United Flight 1267.

Passengers at Houston airports noticed big changes Saturday as Continental Airline's name faded into history.

All of the Continental signs are coming down and being replaced with the new United Airlines brand. The companies merged in 2010, but the names of both airlines have remained been on signs at gates at its 10 hubs.

"It confuses me when it says Continental and the aisle says United. They've got to paint the planes right away," Gary Pezzuti said.

Pezzuti is among many travelers who had no problems checking in at Bush Intercontinental Airport this weekend, despite a major system change.

Continental and United's passenger databases were linked into one main system, meaning all tickets are being issued under United's name only. Until now, both airlines issued their own tickets and passengers had to use separate ticket counters. The technological merger is one of the final steps to operating as a single airline.

"Whatever they call themselves, it will be easy for me. But the other people who are flying for the first time, it's going to be confusing, but they'll figure it out," Pezzuti said.

United.com became the official website for the combined airline, but its look and feel is similar to the old Continental site. Passengers will be able to use it to check in, regardless of which airline issued their ticket.

The new website was up and running early Saturday in time for customers to check in for 6am flights. The Continental website went dark around 1am for the company to make the switch.

The airline moves an average of 264,000 passengers per day. They picked Saturday for the online switch since traffic is about 15 percent lighter than on weekdays.

United brought in extra workers Saturday to deal with any potential delays that could have come up due to the switch.

United released a statement Saturday, saying, "Our single reservation system is now supporting the entire airline. The system conversion involves moving millions of reservations and re-establishing numerous communications links. The vast majority of this work is going well, and we are resolving technical issues that we are identifying during this process."

Passenger Barbara Smith said she was having a tough time getting booked on a new flight after mechanical delays on a United plane.

"Well, they wouldn't check us in last night so we have to do it this morning, and now it's a disaster because we probably missed our plane. So, we probably missed it again. So, it's not been pleasant," Barbara Smith said.

However, United's call center was experiencing major backups Saturday. Some callers were on hold up to an hour. In response, United released the following statement Saturday: "As to hold times, our call volume has been higher than normal in the last few days, even prior to the cutover. We have additional staffing on duty in our reservations centers to address this. The website has the most updated advice about hold times."

To check possible flight delays that may affect you, go to the ABC13 Travel Guide.