The December holiday season is one of the busiest periods for air carriers, with some millions of passengers taking to the skies to visit family or take vacations. In light of this, many travelers were alarmed to hear news from American Airlines that a scheduling issue would result in the cancellation of thousands of the carrier’s holiday season flights. Thankfully, the Fort Worth, Texas-based career just announced that a solution had been found for the sudden schedule problem between them and their pilots’ union.
American Airlines reported last month that, due to an alleged “processing error” with their computer-managed employee scheduling system, a larger number of pilots had been approved for vacation time than the company could handle. Over 15,000 flights scheduled between the 17th and 31st of December were bereft of captains and first officers, leaving them grounding. AA initially tried to resolve the problem by filling the empty cockpits with reserve pilots, as well as offering bonus pay to pilots who had requested off during the period. Pilots were reportedly offered time and a half pay for taking on the unassigned flights. Unfortunately for the carrier, members of the Allied Pilots Association, a union for AA pilots, claimed the company’s proposed solution was in violation of pilot contracts, since it would have restricted trip trades and premium pay for the month. Furthermore, the company was accused of bargaining with pilots without the union’s input.
December is a key month for AA, the world’s largest airline by both revenue and overall fleet size. The carrier has roughly 200,000 departures scheduled for the month of December. The glitch, which allowed pilots to drop scheduled work shifts even when no backup pilot was available, came as a surprise to the company, which has an otherwise respectable history. AA’s mishap mirrors a similar incident involving Ryanair, a low-cost carrier based in Ireland. The carrier reported that, due to a switchover to a new computer system for managing employee vacations this year, they had accidently unstaffed roughly 20,000 flights from November through to March.
This past Friday, representatives of AA once again sat down with the pilots’ union and struck a deal that led the Allied Pilots Association to withdraw its complaint against the company. With this barrier removed, pilots have been freed to accept the offer from AA, meaning the cancelled flights are adequately staffed. AA announced the resolution by telling customers ” if Santa is flying, so is American.”