Airlines are having to push their operations to the limit this summer as they struggle to keep schedules running reliably. A glitch with American Airlines crew scheduling technology is causing quite the kerfuffle between management and the union representing pilots.

Glitch allows American pilots to drop trips

Long story short, over the weekend American's pilot scheduling system accidentally allowed all pilots to drop as many trips as they please.

This wasn't intended. American was attempting to prevent pilots from being able to trade trips to ensure a reliable operation. Over 2,000 flight sequence and 37,000 hours of flying time were lost. 450 pilots dropping all of their flying for July is the equivalent of a pilot flying up to 80 hours a month.

Some pilots dropped trips because they didn't want to fly them and others dropped trips because they wanted an open schedule so they could pick up extra pay.

This isn't the first time that this has happened at American. The pilot is almost like an airline mistake fare. I think pilots probably knew something wasn't right and there was a lot of talk about it.

American stated that it has restored a lot of the schedules to what they were before the glitch, and that it doesn't anticipate any operational impact because of it. Not so fast...

American made a major error with crew scheduling

Pilot union says American has to honor mistake

The APA has a different take than management. The airline is telling pilots that they can't add trips to their schedules and that they should enjoy their time off.

“Management has no contractual mechanism to just add flying to your schedules. APA has the data to determine who was able to drop trips and who has trips added back to their HI1’s. If you are one of these pilots, enjoy your time off. You dropped your trip legally.”

— 🇺🇦 JonNYC 🇺🇦 (@xJonNYC) July 2, 2022

It's going to be difficult.

  • American management is highly unlikely to punish pilots who don’t take these trips, especially given that the union is telling members that they don’t have to
  • The union is technically correct based on the contract, which is to say that management can’t unilaterally add back trips, and there’s no exception for mistakes; given the lack of goodwill between management and the union, it’s not surprising they’re playing hardball
  • It’s going to be interesting to see how well both sides negotiate here, and I imagine this is just a case where American management will have to throw money at the situation, and it could be costly

During the time when we are seeing the highest demand for air travel in two years, airlines have little room for error.

American’s pilot union is fighting back

Bottom line

37,000 flying hours were lost because of an error in American's crew scheduling system. Short staffed airlines pose a major issue.

The union says that adding flights back to schedules can't be done. How this plays out is going to be interesting.

What do you think about the pilot scheduling problem? Do you think the other side is correct?

The tip of the hat is used to view from the wing.