American Airlines has offered 1.5-times regular pay to pilots who volunteer to fly the affected flights, which run from Dec. 17 to Dec. 31. John D. Simmons jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
American Airlines has offered 1.5-times regular pay to pilots who volunteer to fly the affected flights, which run from Dec. 17 to Dec. 31. John D. Simmons jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

National

American Airlines now says your Christmas flight may be saved

By Chabeli Herrera

cherrera@miamiherald.com

November 30, 2017 03:48 PM

Crisis averted? It seems Christmas is not ruined — yet.

After a computer glitch that gave too many American Airlines pilots vacation time in December and put more than 15,000 holiday flights in jeopardy of cancellation, according to estimates by the Allied Pilots Association, the airline is now close to a resolution.

Out of 200,000 flights American will operate in December, “only a few hundred” currently don’t have pilots, said American Airlines spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello in an update Thursday, after the malfunction was made public Wednesday.

But the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 15,000 American Airlines pilots, refutes that number.

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The Fort Worth, Texas-based union said in a statement Thursday that it’s able to view in “real time” the December flight crew announcements.

While American Airlines says only a “few hundred” flights remain without pilots, the Allied Pilots Association says the true number of flights still in jeopardy on cancellation is in the “thousands.”

“That data does not support management’s statement regarding December flights that ‘only a few hundred are currently unassigned to pilots,’ ” the union said.

In fact, it estimates that “thousands” of flights are still unassigned to pilots.

“We remain seriously concerned about the potential for significant schedule disruption for our passengers, pilots, and fellow employees during the critical holiday travel season,” the union said.

For its part, American has offered 1.5-times regular pay to pilots who volunteer to fly the affected flights, which run from Dec. 17 to Dec. 31.

“That number of open flights continues to decrease thanks to our pilots who are stepping up to the plate and picking up trips to ensure customers are taken care of,” Aran Coello said in a statement. “In addition, we have more reserve pilots on hand in December than normal months and they provide us with the ability to fly many of the trips that are currently uncovered.”

The leading airline has not yet canceled any scheduled flights in December as a result of the glitch, Aran Coello said, and “will continue to work to ensure both our pilots and our customers are cared for.”

This holiday travel season is expected to be a particularly busy one, experts say. According to one estimate from airline deals website Airfarewatchdog, a poll of 1,300 travelers found that 46 percent planned to fly this holiday season — the highest figure since 2013.

Flights that were originally scheduled without a captain, first officer or both originate from Dallas-Fort Worth International, American’s largest hub, and airports in Boston, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, North Carolina, according to a company memo to the union, which was seen by Bloomberg News.

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Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH