Midway through this week, American Airlines (AA) had a huge problem: a glitch in its computer system gave time off to too many pilots in December, which, at the time, left more than 15,000 flights without an adequate crew. During the holiday rush, this was terrible news for the largest airline in the world.

The glitch forced AA to rebuild its staffing schedule in a manner similar to what happens after weather disruptions. The carrier offered 1.5 times their normal hourly wage to work flights, which is the highest rate allowed per the pilot contract at the airline. The Allied Pilot Association (APA), however, filed a grievance against the airline, saying that the solution violates its labor pact; the group wants to speak with American to come up with a solution that will motivate pilots to give up vacation they’ve already received after working over the holidays in previous years.

Now, American has a solution. The carrier and the APA have reached a deal, the details of which will be released after pilots can review the deal.

“We are pleased to report that together, American and the Allied Pilots Association have put that worry to rest to make sure our flights will operate as scheduled,” American Airlines said in a Friday afternoon statement. “By working together, we can assure customers that among the many stresses of the season, worrying about a canceled flight won’t be one of them. In short, if Santa is flying, so is American.”

“APA and management have reached an agreement in principle addressing our respective needs, and we have withdrawn our grievance,” the pilots union, who has withdrawn its grievance, said in its own statement. “With this agreement in principle, we anticipate that American Airlines will be able to maintain a full December schedule as planned for its passengers.”

“The number of open flights continues to decrease, thanks to our pilots who are stepping up the plate and picking up trips,” American says. “Out of the 200,000 flights American will operate in December, only a few hundred are currently unassigned to pilots. We have more reserve pilots on hand in December than normal months and they provide us with the ability to fly many of the trips that are currently uncovered.”

Despite American’s statements, the APA says that the number of flights in the second half of December missing at least one pilot is still in the thousands.

According to a report by Bloomberg News earlier in the week, flights originating in Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston, Miami, New York, Salt Lake City, Chicago O’Hare, and New York LaGuardia and Charlotte were to be most affected if the glitch hadn’t been resolved. Most of the cancellations were between December 17 and December 31.

“American has a huge business traveler base that they need to keep happy,” said Joe Schwieterman, a transportation professor at DePaul University in Chicago. “You look at the holiday season and [full flights] and you throw this kind of problem into the mix and no doubt, travelers get nervous.”


This isn’t the first time this fall that thousands of flights were jeopardized due to scheduling problems. In September, Ryanair canceled thousands of flights into 2018 due to a change in the calendar year for pilot vacations.

Featured image by Curimedia via Wikimedia Commons

Categories: Pilot and Plane

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