American Airlines Computer Error Leaves 15,000 Flights Without Pilots Over The Year End Holiday Period


American Airlines on Friday discovered a bug on its crew scheduling software that had allowed more pilots to take time off during the busy year end holiday period than is required to operate the schedule.

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This error now leaves roughly 15,000 flights without adequate number of cockpit crew members and the airline is now trying to entice them to forgo the time off with (inadequate) overtime pay.

Here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg (access here):

The glitch caused the scheduling system to show that American had ample staffing coverage for some planned flights when it actually didn’t, Miller said. The system let pilots drop some trips they had been assigned next month because it wrongly showed there were sufficient crew members willing to pick up the flights.

Flights that are scheduled without a captain, first officer or both originate from Dallas-Fort Worth International, American’s largest hub, and airports in Boston, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, North Carolina, according to a company memo to the union, which was seen by Bloomberg News.

And here’s from Reuters (access their piece here):

“We have reserve pilots to help cover flying in December, and we are paying pilots who pick up certain open trips 150 percent of their hourly rate – as much as we are allowed to pay them per the contract,” American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said on Wednesday.

In an email to employees, American had offered pilots the extra pay to work certain flights in the holiday period. But the union filed a grievance, saying that some restrictions on overtime pay violated the group’s contract.

American is hoping to avoid having to cancel flights, which, in addition to being a nuisance for travelers, could cost the carrier millions in lost revenue.


It could get nasty with delays and cancellations over the period between December 17 – 31, 2017. Although 15,000 flights sounds like a lot, but is only bit more than two days of flights for American.

The problem is that the flights are really full and especially at this time of the year. There is hardly any slack in the system and other airlines are not able to help either. Everyone is at capacity!

Let’s see what kind of arrangement American is able to come up with its pilot Union. Sounds like 150% pay is not enough (really only 50% bonus over their regular pay).

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