American Airlines has revealed that it accidentally let too many of its pilots take time off during the week of Christmas. Now, the airline faces a manpower crisis that could leave around 15,000 of its flights without a pilot to sit in the cockpit.
The airline blames this blunder on some sort of a computer glitch. It seems as if the scheduling system it uses to assign pilots for various flights had indicated that there were enough captains and first officers to go around on flights. Separately, another system, which is used to assign holiday leave based on seniority of the staff, got a little carried away with the festive spirit of Christmas and gave too many pilots time off.
To get their pilots back to work and to avoid the mass cancellations of tickets, the airline is offering extra pay to pilots who pick up flights. In a released statement, it said that it has enough reserve pilots to cover the flying time during December, and it’s still working with the pilot’s union to smooth out the situation. Representatives of the Allied Pilots Association, which represents more than 60,000 pilots in US & Canada, says that the airline should have consulted with them before announcing the extra pay. However, with approaching peak travel times, it’s easy to find an acceptable solution.
Most of the time, airlines have to deal with bad weather that can ground planes, leaving the crew in wrong location, or when someone misses his luggage. But a glitch in the software that can affect planes, pilots, or passengers is very harder to handle.
In September this year, European budget operator Ryanair had the same problem. It had booked too many crew members for vacation. It had to cancel more than 2,100 flights, and had to deal with some 315,000 customers who were trying to get to home or going from home on summer vacations.