Only A Few Hundred American Airlines Planes Are Without Pilots, Airline Says

Travelers might not be screwed after all.

Getty Images / Joshua Lott

Days after a computer glitch in American Airlines’ scheduling system left 15,000 flights over Christmas and New Years Eve without pilots, there are “only a few hundred” flights left that are unassigned, the airline told Inverse Thursday morning.

The computer failure, which the union for American’s pilots made public Wednesday, allowed virtually all pilots to take time off for the end-of-year holidays. This meant that more than 15,000 flights scheduled between December 17 and December 31 didn’t have pilots to fly them.

In its statement to Inverse, American credited its pilots with “stepping up to the plate and picking up trips to ensure customers are taken care of.” The airline offered pilots 1.5 times the normal pay rate to pick up unmanned flights in light of the glitch, Bloomberg reported.

The glitch in the American Airlines computer system affects 15,000 flights.

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The glitch apparently affected how pilots bid for time off based on seniority, and showed virtually all pilots that they were granted vacation time over the holidays, according to Reuters. The two-week period in question is regularly one of the busiest periods for air travel each year, and American Airlines — the world’s largest airline — operates 200,000 flights during the month of December alone. The airline told Inverse it has not canceled any of its holiday flights due to the computer issue.

While American’s pay incentive seems to be pretty successful so far in getting pilots to pick up flights, the pilots’ labor union has pushed back against the solution because of what they call “significant holes in the operation.” The Allied Pilots Association says that it’s common practice for American to work directly with the union to fix such scheduling conflicts, but the airline instead decided to resolve it on its own — a violation of pilot contract. Because airline management “unilaterally invoked a solution” outside of contract, the union says it can’t guarantee to pilots they’ll be paid the promised overtime salary for the holiday work they take.

Holidays in December are one of the busiest times each year for air travel.

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Shares of the American Airlines Group Inc. stock dipped Wednesday afternoon with news of the computer glitch, and the airline finished the day with hardly any gains. However, shares had already recovered and were rising again as of Thursday morning.

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