Software glitch wreaks havoc on American Airlines’ December schedules

Written by: Felicity Stredder |
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US carrier American Airlines is the latest victim of airline rostering technology, as a software glitch leaves thousands of peak season flights without pilots.

The carrier’s scheduling system wrongly showed sufficient staffing cover for planned flights in December, which resulted in time off being permitted to too many pilots between December 17 and 31. Pilots were therefore able to drop some of the flights they had been assigned, when there were not enough crew members to pick up the dropped flights.

The US carrier must now contend with over 15,000 flights that lack pilots, according to the Allied Pilots Association, (which represents American Airlines pilots). A spokesman for the association called the situation “a crisis”, adding that it was far from a routine occurrence.

The airline has said that it is working diligently to address the issue and expects to avoid cancellations during the peak holiday season, thanks to the carrier’s backup pilots. These reserves will be paid 150% of their hourly rate to pick up certain flights - the maximum wage AA is allowed to pay them per contract, according to a spokesperson for the carrier. “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,” the spokesperson added.

Gregg Overman, a spokesman for APA, said that there has been no solution as of yet. The pilot union has said that “neither APA nor the contract can guarantee the promised payment of the premium being offered.”

It has been reported that the flights scheduled without a Captain, First Officer or both, originate from American's largest hub Dallas-Fort Worth airport and airports in Boston, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Between Ryanair’s recent rostering blunder and this latest disaster for American Airlines, it seems the technology on which we have come to depend can generate as many problems as it does solutions. Certainly, the human element remains an important one.

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