American Airlines risks 15,000 flights after it accidentally gives pilots too much Christmas holiday

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A second giant airline appears to have messed up its pilots’ work schedules, and to be at risk of cancelling thousands of flights. 

After Ryanair suffered an unprecedented “pilot rostering failure” in September, which led to 20,000 flights being grounded, the union representing pilots at American Airlines says the Christmas operation is at risk.

A glitch in the system with which flight crew bid for time off granted the Christmas week off for far too many pilots. It is believed 15,000 flights do not have sufficient crew assigned.

A statement by the Allied Pilots Association said: “On Friday, management disclosed a failure within the pilot schedule bidding system. As a result, thousands of flights currently do not have pilots assigned to fly them during the upcoming critical holiday period.

“Today, management issued an update detailing the ‘significant holes’ in the operation and unilaterally invoked a solution for crewing affected flights.”

American is offering pilots pay at 50 per cent higher than normal rates to persuade them to crew the jeopardised flights. 

The union is unhappy that it was not involved “in developing collaborative solutions to this critical holiday scheduling failure”, and says: “Because management unilaterally created their solution in violation of the contract, neither APA nor the contract can guarantee the promised payment of the premium being offered.”

In a statement, American Airlines told The Independent: “We are working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season.

“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.

“We will work with the APA to take care of our pilots and ensure we get our customers to where they need to go over the holidays.”

Many passengers reacted to the news on Twitter. “Brasky98”, who is due to fly on 22 December, tweeted: “So that’s not very comforting. Since this is AA’s error, how do we get refunded so I can book a flight that has pilots?”

American Airlines said: “We’re working intently to address this and intend to operate flights as normal.”