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Pacific Southwest Airlines' new $1.4 million reservations system in Reno -- designed to make it faster to make reservations and train reservation agents -- has failed the test of time and been put on hold.

The high-tech "touch screen" computer system, expected to reduce the training time for reservation agents from three weeks to as little as one day, did not work well enough, PSA president Russell Ray said.

The software did not sufficiently reduce the time to make a reservation, he said, and the company is developing more direct software for the system.

"It's been put in the back room for further development," said Ray. "Am I disappointed? Yes, I would rather see something work in its first development stage than in its second."

Using Hewlett-Packard 150 terminals and software developed by the airline, the system was expected to cut by 40 percent the time needed to make a reservation by using a touch-sensitive computer screen that could be operated with plain English rather than computer language.

The system, called T-SPARS, turned out to be too simple for the complexities of recent air-fare structures, PSA spokeswoman Margery Craig said. For example, there can be as many as 19 different air fares between any two destinations.

PSA decided in late February to shut down the new system, which opened in December, and return to the old keyboard reservation system used by PSA's San Diego reservations center at Scripps Ranch.

The Reno center did not hinge on T-SPARS, Craig said. The center, which handles calls north of Fresno, is now handling 55 percent of all calls, Ray said.

If the Reno center becomes overloaded with calls from Northern California, calls are automatically rerouted to San Diego. Some employees at Scripps Ranch have reported handling numerous calls that would usually route to Reno, but Ray disagreed that is was a substantial amount. The company has said it expects the Reno center to save PSA at least $14 million in telecommunications costs over the next five years.

The company's decision to open a Reno center was not without controversy. Reservation agents were asked to decide within days whether or not to exercise seniority rights and accept a position in Reno or be laid off. The company also offered buyout proposals tied to a $5-an-hour wage scale for the new hire "touch-screen" agents.

The Teamsters, which represents the agents, filed a grievance claiming PSA had violated existing labor contracts by issuing the layoff notices. The union also rejected the buyout program.

About 130 San Diego reservation agents relocated to the Reno center, which now employs 290 agents, Craig said. The Scripps Ranch center has 230 agents.

The average reservation employee earns $10.98 an hour or approximately $25,000 a year under PSA's existing contract. Some senior reservation agents earn approximately $14 an hour, Craig said. An entry-level reservation agent makes $8.67 an hour, which PSA claims is the highest entry salary for that position in the industry.

In an attempt to lower labor costs by employing fewer senior reservation agents and hiring more entry-level agents, PSA offered a second buyout, ranging from $5,000 to $12,000, in mid-January.

Meanwhile, PSA plans to move its data-processing department into its Scripps Ranch center to share space with its reservations division. Ray said PSA's long-term capital budget calls for construction of a computer support building at Scripps Ranch, but no final decision has been made whether the building will actually be constructed.