Union: Thousands of American Airlines Holiday Flights Without Pilots Due to Snafu

The airline accidentally gave too many employees time off, with more than 15,000 flights reportedly affected.

Delta Airlines plane, American Airlines plane
Robert E Klein—AP

A snag in American Airlines' computerized scheduling system created a scenario that has thousands of flights with unmanned cockpits during December, according to the union that represents pilots.

The Allied Pilots Association said in a statement that the carrier had "a failure within the pilot bidding system" that left thousands of flights during the holidays without pilots. On Tuesday, "management issued an update detailing the 'significant holes' in the operation and unilaterally invoked a solution for crewing affected flights," the Texas-based union said.

The error impacted more than 15,000 flights from Dec. 17-31, Reuters reported, while the Dallas Morning News said the glitch showed the impacted flights had enough coverage and the carrier gave time off to too many pilots in December.

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The union that represents 15,000 American pilots said it has filed a grievance, and that a proposed solution violates its labor pact. 

A spokesperson for American told Bloomberg News the carrier expects to fix the problem in time for there not to be any disruptions in service.

On Monday, the carrier posted statistics showing it flew 5.5 million passengers on 55,463 flights during the Thanksgiving holiday from Nov. 17-26, a shorter time than the reported upcoming period without pilots.