American Airlines blames a “computer glitch” for a scheduling error that allowed every one of their pilots to take days off during the busiest travel time of the calendar year.
The pilots, who traditionally bid for vacation time and see it granted in accordance with seniority and their individual request, were granted leave between December 15 and December 31, according to The Hill. As of this writing, more than 15,000 flights have no pilots, and travelers may face delayed or cancelled flights as the airline scrambles to schedule pilots to fly planes again.
A memo obtained by CNBC says that the shortage affects flights across the country, including flights originating in critical hubs like Dallas-Fort Worth (TX), Chicago-O’Hare, and LaGuardia Airport in New York.
Allied Pilots Association spokesperson Captain Dennis Tajer told CNBC that their system “went from responsibly scheduling everybody to becoming Santa Claus to everyone… The computer said, ‘Hey ya’ll. You want the days off? You got it.'”
The union spokesperson called the scheduling nightmare “a ‘Grinch that stole Christmas’ thing,” adding that he hoped American Airlines passengers wouldn’t see cancelled flights as a result of the accident.
American Airlines, for now, is sounding a confident tone. Spokesperson Matt Miller says the airline was hiring reserve pilots to fill gaps and would pay pilots up to 150 percent of their hourly rate, only limited by the contract between American Airlines and the Allied Pilots Association union.
That contract, though, might prove to be a giant problem for staffing the flights.
In a statement, the Allied Pilots Association warned that American Airlines’ existing solution had been “unilaterally” decided on by the company without consultation with the union — and there was nothing the union could do to “guarantee” that pilots would be paid extra for flying the emergency flights.
APA warned American Airlines about the scheduling fiasco on Friday of last week, they say.
The union’s statement minces no words, concluding with: “Management’s actions likewise jeopardize any collaborative effort to ensure our passengers have a pilot crew to take them to their important holiday events.”
They say they have filed a grievance with the airline.