Airline blames glitch for lack of pilots over Christmas

Glitch by the world's biggest airline could see 15000 festive flights grounded

American Airlines and its pilot union are having a public spat over just how many of its holiday flights don't have a pilot assigned.

A computer glitch allowed all American Airlines pilots to take vacation for the week of Christmas, leaving thousands of flights without a pilot.

With the U.S. Capitol in the distance, an American Airlines airplane takes off from Ronald Reagan National Airport, in Washington, D.C., on September 1.

"We have not canceled any scheduled flights in December and will continue to work to ensure both our pilots and our customers are cared for", American said.

"The system went from responsibly scheduling everybody to becoming Santa Claus to everyone", APA spokesman Dennis Tajer said to CNBC. Still, industry experts say the increased complexity of airline computer systems is to blame for a growing number of glitches that have recently grounded airplanes and posted ultra-cheap airfares. You want the days off? The contract means they can not offer any more overtime pay.

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The scheduling problem, which American described as an isolated incident, could affect flights at around a dozen airports, including the carrier's primary hub at Dallas-Fort Worth, as well as airports in Boston, Charlotte, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City.

However, the APA has already filed a grievance about that idea, saying the company's proposed solution violates its contract because American "unilaterally invoked a solution for crewing affected flights".

"We are working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season", American Airlines said in a statement.

Rather than awarding a limited amount of time off based on seniority, a system blunder allotted off days to too numerous carrier's pilots. "The contract is important, but the most important of this is ensuring our passengers are taken care of...but this is going to require a partnership to solve it, regardless of what the rules are."Miller said American's leadership spoke to the APA Wednesday afternoon to hammer out a resolution to the staffing shortage".

Union drama aside, CBS46 consulted a number of local travel experts, and they all unanimously agreed, American Airlines has plenty of time to straighten this one out. The airline is offering pilots 150 percent of their hourly pay to fill in and work between December 17 and 31.

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