American Airlines announced Friday that it had reached an agreement with its pilots union to avoid the cancellation of thousands of flights this holiday season that were left without cockpit crews due to a scheduling error.
“By working together, we can assure customers that among the many stresses of the season, worrying about a canceled flight won’t be one of them,” the airline said in a statement. “In short, if Santa is flying, so is American.”
According to the Allied Pilots Association (APA), the glitch had left more than 15,000 flights without a captain, co-pilot or both between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31 at dozens of airports. The union blamed a “failure within the pilot schedule bidding system” that allowed too many pilots to request vacation during the same time period.
By Thursday, however, American Airlines had stated that the issue — which it called a clerical error, — was affecting “only a few hundred” flights. The airline further stated that they employ a large number of reserve pilots in December, many of whom will be filling in for “trips that are currently uncovered.”
The APA had disputed that claim, saying that data from American’s scheduling system still showed “thousands” of flights without full crews.
Airline spokesman Matt Miller said the system viewed by the union does not register flights that American expects to fill with reserve pilots until the day before the flight. He said the airline keeps a larger number of pilots on reserve in December than other months, and it will also use overtime to entice other pilots to work the unstaffed flights.
Meanwhile, the “jobs” section of the American Airlines website currently features a listing for a new Director, Crew Scheduling. But even though the post’s date reads Nov. 28, a representative for the airline tells Fox News that the opening is “entirely unrelated” to the recent scheduling issue, and rather an older posting from early November “that was reposted after the Thanksgiving holiday.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.