American Flags Pilot Shortage For December Flights

November 29, 2017

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American Airlines could be short of pilots in December leading to flight cancellations as a computer software problem gave too many pilots time off, the carrier’s pilot union said.

The Allied Pilots Association, representing 15,000 pilots at American, said the failure was in the pilot schedule bidding system, where cockpit crew can bid for time off. The system failure allowed too many pilots down time during one of the busiest travel times of the year.

As a result of the failure “thousands of flights currently do not have pilots assigned to fly them during the upcoming critical holiday period,” APA said in a statement.

The airline disclosed the failure to pilots last Friday and “issued an update detailing the ‘significant holes’ in the operation and unilaterally invoked a solution for crewing affected flights,” the Fort Worth-based union said.

American has offered pilots more money to operate some flights during December, but APA has filed a grievance saying the airline’s solution violates the pilots’ contracts.

A few days after American congratulated itself for “an impressive holiday operation” over the Thanksgiving weekend, a shortage of pilots leading to flight cancellations could cost the airline millions of dollars in lost revenue.

The pilot leave crisis at American mirrors a similar problem at Europe’s biggest low cost carrier Ryanair where a change in the airline’s leave year meant too many pilots took leave in the last few months of the calendar year. Overall, the airline had to cancel 20,000 flights as a result of the pilot shortage.