Thursday, April 9, 2009

Skip Powell part five

The OAG (Official Airline Guide) was the basic available reservation building tool, a well thumbed inch thick document, received monthly. Nope, this was not the more expensive semi-monthly QRE (Quick Reference Edition), readble and usable by most any novice. Found in the OAG were airline schedules in alpha sequence, shown in a reproduced image of those public timetables found on ticket counters. The OAG had two sections; Domestic airlines followed by International. International queries were most always referred to local travel agents.

The Domestic OAG section contained schedules for 13 Trunk (UA, EA, CA, DL, etc), 13 Local Service (OZ, MO, LC, NC, etc.) and 3 Helicopter (NYC, CHI and LAX) carriers. By the year 2008, most folks had never heard of most of these airlines. The only remaining ones are AA, CO, DL, NW, UA and US (former AL) along with a number of 'commuter' carriers.

Believe me using that OAG took diligent 'on-the-job' training to piece together acceptable trip routing across multiple airlines, let alone obtaining seat confirmations, a much more difficult process during holiday travel times, when seats were hard to find.

The value of my Airline School (CTI) tuition paid off in my ability to 'root out' the more complicated interline itineraries. At CTI, we learned each airlines routes, cities served and its geographical area of service. It became a rare 3-ALPHA city/airport code not committed to memory! Such memory knowledge did not gain one a pay bonus but it was a nice asset, since in those days some 60-70% of all NC bookings included connections to other airlines (OA). Rarely, within a short period, did one handle multiple reservations to the same interline destination.

It was rather common knowledge that any city code beginning with a Z or Y was a Canadian city. Less well known were several 'US of A' Y-Z exceptions. What are they?? 3 pop to mind.

Often several 'mucking about' days were required to complete an acceptable interline reservation along with seat confirmations. Obtaining such began with the trusty teletype keyboard. First one had to understand another manual, SIPP (Standard interline Policy and Procedures) which dictated precise interline message, format and content. Compliance failure resulted in no response or a nasty response from some unknown 'expert.'

Once the PSGR was happy with the quoted itinerary notifications to boarding locations were required.
Itinerary example: Watertown SD to Detriot, MI (YIP) via Minneapolis, MN.
On flights of NC, Capital (CA) and Northwest (NW)
A teletype (TTY) message would be addressed to : CRCRCNC, MSPRRCA, YIPRRNW, MSPRRNC
Originator identification: ATYRRNC 20DEC1000Z
Each booked flight would be expressed as: NC 765/23DEC ATYMSP SS 1
THANK YOU Army for that typing class!!

From today's view, it was a mind-boggling process. Once the booking message was keyboarded (fat fingered) producing an inch wide hole-punched paper tape, it was inserted in the Sending Unit and when line became available, it was sent. A comparable paper tape would be generated in the NC Chicago Communications Center where it would be manually moved to each of the two outbound transmitters servicing CA and NW.

The reverse would occur when CA and NW would respond within the expected 24 hours confirming or denying the booking. All booking messages included CRCRC (NC Central Res Control) who maintained system wide NC seat inventory. Later message switching between airlines was automated via an upgraded ARINC (A-circuit) system. ARINC (Aeronautical Radio, INC>) was an airline owned system, it's purpose communications - both Ground to Air and message processing.

Imagine the difficulty obtaining interline seats during peak travel. One could one hope 'all' airlines would favorably respond with confirmed seats. If not, start over. Later procedures were improved with Free Sell (FS) and assume a (KK) confirmed seat, absent a response within (I think it was) 12 hours. Upon receiving favorable responses from each airline, the PSGR would be called confirming his reservation and an airport ticket pickup time arranged. Most tickets were purchased in advance of departure date.

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