Many passengers and travel agents this week got an unpleasant pre-holiday surprise: a failure in American Airlines’ computerized pilot scheduling system gave too many pilots time off during the upcoming holiday season, potentially leaving as many as 15,000 flights without a crew.
But while headlines like the inevitable “Glitch that Stole Christmas” have given ticket-holders some agita, American said that it is working to resolve the problem, which would affect flights scheduled between Dec. 17 and the end of the year.
A spokesman for the carrier told TMR that “we expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season,” adding “we are working diligently to address the issue … and ensure we get our customers to where they need to go over the holidays.”
Among other things, American said it has reserve pilots it can call on to staff affected flights. And it is offering overtime pay of 150 percent of the hourly rate to other pilots who volunteer to pick up the slack.
However, American’s pilot union, the Allied Pilots Association, expressed a contrary view, saying it has not agreed to any resolution, and complaining the company had not sought input from its members in crafting a solution.
Still, some pilots indicated that there is still enough time to fix the situation. Capt. Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union, told the AP that “this is a potential crisis we see well in advance,” unlike, say, major weather events that can roil air travel with little warning.
The scheduling problem, which American described as an isolated incident, could affect flights at around a dozen airports, including the carrier’s primary hub at Dallas-Fort Worth, as well as airports in Boston, Charlotte, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City.
And while the number of affected flights represent a relatively small percentage of the more than 90,000 flights that American will operate during the two-week period, flights are expected to be packed, thus leaving less wiggle room for re-accommodating affected fliers.