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American Airlines Scheduling Glitch Causes Thousands of Cancellations

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Empty American Airlines gate | Image by Shutterstock

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American Airlines experienced a technical glitch in its pilot scheduling platform over the weekend, resulting in the cancellation of more than 12,000 flights through the end of July.

The scheduling platform allows pilots to request to add, drop, and swap specific trips, spokesperson Matt Miller said in an email. Due to the glitch, the system allowed the airline’s pilots to collectively drop far more scheduled flights than would regularly be permitted.

“As a result of this technical glitch, certain trip-trading transactions were able to be processed when it shouldn’t have been permitted,” American Airlines said in a statement. “We already have restored the vast majority of the affected trips and do not anticipate any operational impact because of this issue.”

Dennis Tajer, a pilot with American Airlines and the communications committee chairman for the Allied Pilots Association, argued the recent surge in flight cancellations was due to poor scheduling practices and oversold flights.

The union and airline are now discussing additional pay for pilots whose dropped trips the airline reinstated, the Allied Pilots Association (APA) said.

American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said he is committed to paying an “inconvenience premium” to pilots whose schedules were impacted by the glitch, according to APA President Captain Ed Sicher.

“To Mr. Isom’s credit, he called me four times today to commit to mitigating the damage from this debacle,” Sicher wrote. “We started at a 200% override, although the details of this pay are still the subject of negotiations, and there is no guarantee of the details or the amounts.”

American Airlines declined to comment on Sicher’s message to pilots.

Steve Cosgrove, CEO of Dynamic Travel of Southlake, said the added pay would motivate pilots to pick up the flights that were dropped during the glitch.

“Having a 200% pay incentive or more — 300, 400 — will encourage the pilots to pick the trips back up. They may be able to work things out contractually,” said Cosgrove.

According to FlightAware, U.S. airlines reported 4,824 delays and 640 cancellations on Saturday. Fort-worth-based American Airlines saw 100 canceled flights and 796 delays.

A similar issue occurred in 2017 when a technology problem let American Airlines pilots vacation during the busy December holiday. The carrier offered pilots 150% pay for pilots who picked up assignments.

The glitch comes amid the myriad of pressing issues affecting the aviation industry in 2022. As airlines struggle to handle record-high demand, travelers have faced thousands of cancellations and delays due to a growing shortage of pilots and air-traffic controllers.

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