American Airlines glitch leaves 15,000 Christmas flights without a captain.
If you haven’t already finished your holiday shopping, here’s a handy gift idea: video chat technology. Why? Because if you booked your flight home for Christmas on American Airlines, video chat might be the only way you’re gonna see your family members.
The company announced that a computer glitch allowed pilots to take their vacations during Christmas week. Typically, there are parameters for the digital system that block out available vacation days based on the need for pilots in specific regions. The real issue with the glitch, however, was that the computer showed flights as already having an abundance of necessary staff, resulting in pilots scheduling their days off and American agreeing to their dates.
This doesn’t change the amount of reservations that the airline took and the number of seats they sold to holiday travelers, of course. So far, the company estimates that 15,000 flights between December 17th and 31st are “critically understaffed,” meaning there’s a good chance they’re not getting off the ground. In order to correct this issue, the company is offering their pilots a bonus to come back and reschedule their work days. Pilots who change their own plans and agree to fly will earn 150% of their pay for those flights.
This hasn’t appeased the pilots’ union though, who has said revoking the vacation days even for additional money violates its contract. Instead, they claim that American Airlines will have to revamp its holiday flight schedule, which obviously poses a problem for travelers who’ve already made their plans.
It might sound like the union is just a little bit of a Grinch about this, but this is also the second incident this year in which a computer scheduling error left planes without pilots to fly them. Ryanair had to ground 20,000 flights in September and October over the same type of incident, affecting some 400,000 passengers’ plans. With airlines such a vital part of the transportation infrastructure, mistakes over taking a vacation–whether it’s the passenger or the pilot–can disrupt the entire industry.