Nightmare Before Christmas: Computer Glitch Leaves Many Holiday Flights Without a Pilot

For those of you who are dreading the stress of holiday travel, you might not have to deal with it at all. An American Airlines computer glitch has allowed pilots to put up their OOO at the same time, leaving thousands of flights without a sufficient crew during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year. The scheduling snafu allegedly affects major airports like New York, Miami, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Chicago O’Hare. The Allied Pilots Association (APA) union, which represents the carrier’s pilots, estimated 15,000 flights from December 17 to 31 were impacted, reporters Reuters.

“The system went from responsibly scheduling everybody to becoming Santa Claus to everyone,” Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines spokesperson for the APA, told CNBC. “The computer said, ‘Hey y’all. You want the days off? You got it.”

“On Friday, management disclosed a failure within the pilot schedule bidding system,” the APA said in a statement. “As a result, thousands of flights currently do not have pilots assigned to fly them during the upcoming critical holiday period.”  But don’t worry -- they’re on it.

“We are working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season,” an American Airlines spokesperson said. “We have reserve pilots to help cover flying in December, and we are paying pilots who pick up certain open trips 150 percent of their hourly rate -- as much as we are allowed to pay them per the contract.”

However, the union has filed a grievance against the airline, stating that this violates pilot contracts. “Because management unilaterally created their solution in violation of the contract, neither APA nor the contract can guarantee the promised payment of the premium being offered,” the APA said.

The airline said, “we will work with the APA to take care of our pilots and ensure we get our customers to where they need to go over the holidays.” Until then, it looks like the pilots are getting a holiday treat while the rest of us are in for a lump of coal.

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