by Mark Albert
Courtesy: American Airlines
WASHINGTON (TVR) – American Airlines says it has recruited enough crews to fly thousands of December flights, although the carrier admitted “a few hundred” flights still have no pilots assigned to work during the crucial holiday travel period.
In its first full statement after the pilots’ union disclosed the “computer glitch” on Wednesday, the airline said the number of unstaffed flights “continues to decrease thanks to our pilots who are stepping up to the plate and picking up trips to ensure customers are taken care of.”
American has offered pilots 150% pay to work flights between Dec. 17-31 that currently do not have captains or first officers.
American Airlines blamed the computer error for giving a vast number of its pilots time off over the holidays; so much time, in fact, that approximately 15,000 flights full of passengers traveling to see loved ones, for vacations, or business had no one to fly them, the pilots’ union said.
“If not fixed, it will inconvenience a lot of passengers,” Allied Pilot Association communications director Gregg Overman told CBS News.
“That’s a big number…That’s multiple days’ worth of flying,” Overman said.
American Airlines uses an app called “Trip Trade” to assign flights to pilots, Yahoo Finance reported.
The app mistakenly marked a vast number of flights in the crucial Christmas and New Year’s period as “green,” which means pilots may “drop” those flights and not work.
“All the trips turned green, so everyone dropped trips,” Yahoo said an anonymous American Airlines captain told its reporter. “It wasn’t a failure to assign [pilots], it’s just no one said, ‘I want to work Christmas.’”
The Fort Worth-based carrier is offering 150% pay to pilots who give up their mistakenly-granted holiday vacation time and plan to use reserve crews to try and fill the staffing gaps on flights with no pilots scheduled.
“[W]e have more reserve pilots on hand in December than normal months and they provide us with the ability to fly many of the trips that are currently uncovered,” American said in its release.
“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.”
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Pilots can refuse to work the flights for which they were already granted time off, the union said.
The APA warned its pilots that the carrier had not yet “guaranteed to pay 150% for all flights during this time,” Yahoo reported.
Negotiations are reportedly in progress.
Pilots may decide not to fly at the current offer of time-and-a-half, the captain who did not want his name used said.
“I think there’s going to be some pilots who don’t have young kids who are going to fly for time-and-a-half,” the American Airlines captain was quoted as saying.
“But I ain’t gonna work on Christmas—sure as hell not for time-and-a-half. Double time—I’d probably go do that.”
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