United threw the switch to merge its computer system with Continental's early this morning and, as feared, there are big problems and disruptions.
As of 1:40 p.m. Central time, only 16 percent of United flights at O'Hare and 33 percent at Newark were departing on time, according to the real-time data on Flightstats.com. At Dulles, it was 26 percent; at Orlando 33 percent; at Boston, 30 percent and at Los Angeles, 50 percent.
This delay mess remained as the day progressed, and the guessing here is that tomorrow won't be a lot better. At noon Central time, United was reporting only a 53 percent overall on-time departure rate for all of its flights at all domestic airports -- compared with 88 percent for Southwest, 89 percent for Delta, 91 percent for American and 87 percent for US Airways.
By the way, as an indication of how basically useless the mainstream media have become on travel news, the Chicago Tribune has been taking United's word for it all day long that everything is running just swell -- even though 80 percent of the United departures at Chicago O'Hare have been late all day.
On its home page all day long, the newspaper has been making this absurd assertion: "United Airlines' conversion to a new computer reservation system went off without a major hitch Saturday morning, ..." It then credulously quotes a United flack, one Rahsaan Johnson, as saying: "The conversion is proceeding according to plan."
Hmmm, what kind of "plan" might that be?
Used to be, a reporter would check this stuff out.
[At 4:30 p.m. Central time: O'Hare was still at a mere 20 percent on-time departures, and of the 80 percent late ones, more than half were over 30 minutes delayed. In all, United was running at a 47 percent on-time departure rate nationally, with 61 percent on-time arrivals -- and lots of those late-departing planes were not yet at their destinations. Looks like a pretty bad situation for United].