At some point this week, the American Airlines pilot fleet received great news. Unlike what usually happens other years during the Christmas period, the company gave them vacations. A computer error was to blame, and 15 thousand flights could be affected.
The ruling allowed most pilots to take vacations during the indicated week. A failure as unusual as catastrophic for an airline, as it could leave thousands of aircraft on the ground during one of the busiest travel dates of the year.
According to Reuters, at present there are more than 15,000 aircraft that have not been assigned a pilot in December. As the pilot association explained in a statement:
During these days the administration revealed a fault within the bidding system of the pilot schedule. As a result, thousands of flights currently do not have pilots assigned to fly during the next critical vacation period.
How could such a failure occur? Apparently, the error originated in the system that requests the free time of the pilots based on seniority. The system showed that some flights had an excess of personnel when they did not have it. A few hours ago, American Airlines launched a statement explaining the following:
We are working diligently to address the problem and hope to avoid cancellations this holiday season. We have reserve pilots to try to help cover flights in December, and we are paying the pilots to take these open flights 150% of their hourly rate, it is all we can pay according to the contract. We will work with the APA to take care of our pilots and make sure that our clients get where they need to spend their vacations.
That is to say, that the solution that American Airlines has is to pay an extra to the pilots so that they work in Christmas. It does not seem like a bad idea, although the pilots will have the last word.