Social Media Role in Airline Mergers Nowadays!

 In the bad old days of airline mergers, carriers merely had to worry about things such as new reservations systems and branding, but today they also have to figure out how to consolidate their respective social media presences.

Thus today, the merged United and Continental airlines announced that they will use single channels in social media — namely @United on Twitter and a new United Airlines Facebook page.
This means that some 2,200 tweets after its Aug. 2, 2009, debut, @Continental revealed to its 143,448 Twitter followers that it has a new Twitter handle, @United.
The Flying With Fish blog rightly points out that United blundered in the way it handled the transition to the new and single Twitter handle. Instead of changing its Twitter name in account settings from @UnitedAirlines to @United, United chose to introduce the new Twitter account without migrating its existing base of 193,000 followers, the blog points out.
As of this afternoon, the new @United had a mere 6,254 followers.
In social media, the new United will continue to face reputation challenges as highlighted in United Breaks Guitars and other episodes.
The two airlines will have to sort out their respective social media approaches and the products and services they offer in the various channels.
Meanwhile, the merged airlines are getting down to some other consolidation issues.
United says it expects to get a single operating certificate for the combined airlines in the fourth quarter of 2011 and to migrate to HP’s EDS SHARES reservations system in the first quarter of 2012. United currently uses Travelport’s Apollo system and Continental uses SHARES.
As part of the transition process, United also indicated that the carriers’ respective customers can now use or to search for flights, get seat assignments and check the status of their flights regardless of which of the two airlines they are traveling on.
And, at airports in Chicago, New York/Newark, Houston and San Francisco, passengers can use United and Continental self-service check-in kiosks to check in and print boarding passes for either carrier.
In addition to tasks such as blending their respective frequent flyer programs and revamping airport signage, the merged airlines are also getting down to some of the finer details.
Says United: “By late summer, both airlines will be serving the same coffee — a flavorful new custom blend — and the beer selection on domestic flights will include Heineken, Budweiser and Miller Lite.”
Undoubtedly, there are additional changes brewing.