A glitch in a scheduling platform allowed American Airlines pilots to drop thousands of trips in July last night, their union said Saturday, a headache for the airline as it tries to minimize flight disruptions during a booming travel season.
More than 12,000 July flights lacked either a captain, first officer or both, after pilots dropped assignments, according to the union, the Allied Pilots Association.
Pilots can routinely drop or pick up trips, but time off in the summer or holidays is hard to come by for airline employees as schedules peak to cater to strong demand. American didn’t immediately say whether cancellations were possible.
On Saturday alone, American had more than 3,000 mainline flights scheduled and they were 93% full, according to an internal tally. Flights left unstaffed, however, are an additional strain on any airline.
The glitch occurred during a rocky start to the Fourth of July weekend when thunderstorms and staffing issues caused thousands of U.S. flight delays and hundreds of cancellations.
American and its pilots’ union, whose relationship has been fraught, are in the middle of contract negotiations and the airline most recently offered nearly 17% raises through 2024. Pilots have picketed recently against grueling schedules, something they want to be addressed in a new contract.
American said it has suspended a platform that allows pilots to change their schedules while it investigates the issue.
“We understand these are important tools for our pilots and are working as quickly as possible. We will provide updates throughout the day as we learn more,” American told pilots in an email Saturday.
“They failed to keep the IT system running properly and now thousands of flights do not have pilots assigned to them,” said Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines captain and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association. He said the issue creates “uncertainty for passengers and pilots.”
A similar issue occurred in 2017, when a technology problem let American’s pilots take vacation during the busy December holiday period. The carrier offered pilots 150% pay for pilots that picked up assignments.