American Airlines left with insufficient pilots after glitch

America's biggest airline has suffered a scheduling glitch at the worst possible time of year. American Airlines has offered pilots incentives to come back to work over the Christmas period.

American Airlines
Los Angeles/USA -19/02/2016: An American Airlines Boeing 787 landing on February 19 2016 in Los Angeles. American Airlines is a major airline based in Fort Worth. Photo: Markus Mainka, Bigstock

In the lead up to one of the busiest times of year for airlines, American Airlines has accidentally given too many pilots a holiday over the Christmas period. This technical error in the scheduling system has left more than 15,000 planned flights without an adequate crew.

The airline has commented that it expects to resolve the issue before the December rush begins so as to avoid any delays in service. The carrier will have to recall and reassign crew members in order to reduce the number of flights that have been affected.

American Airlines will need to completely rebuild its staff scheduling system in a similar way that is done during significant weather disruptions. The airline is likely to take a financial hit the more flights that are affected.

They will also be paying many pilots a premium for coming back to work on their days off. The airline is offering a 1.5 times increases to wages for these pilots, the maximum increase possible according to their contracts. Unions representing American pilots want to work on another solution with American air.

The glitch showed that more crew members were working over the holiday period than were actually scheduled. This resulted in many pilots dropping flights they believed to already have adequate crew numbers.

American Airlines is the world’s biggest airline with about 6,700 flights occurring every day. Undoubtedly this scheduling crisis comes at the worst time of year for the airline as investor expense scrutiny is at its highest over the Christmas period.

It was estimated that 19,000 cockpit seats were left empty because of the glitch. The 15,000 affected flights were left without a captain, co-captain or both.

American airlines could potentially face another drop in their share price as they did earlier in the year when they announced a pay wage increase for pilots and flight attendants. The 150% increase in the hourly wage for pilots filling scheduling gaps may cause similar concerns in the market.

The APA (American Pilots Association) has filed an official grievance stating that American Airlines is violating its labour pact with this wage incentive as it was not officially discussed with the union.

American Airlines is definitely in damage control mode now as they are caught between inconveniencing their pilots and inconveniencing their customers over the holiday period. While the airline assures the issue is taken care of, flyers will have to wait and see what happens this Christmas.