Thousands of American Airlines Christmas Flights Don't Have Pilots

American Airlines Group Inc. is rushing to resolve a scheduling fault that gave time off to too many pilots in December – a flaw that has left more than 15,000 flights without sufficient crew during the holiday rush, according to a union for the carrier’s pilots.

The Allied Pilots Association estimated the number of affected flights, from Dec. 17 to Dec. 31, based on information provided by the carrier, said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union. American spokesman Matt Miller declined to quantify the potential number of flights involved, saying the airline expects to correct the problem in time to prevent service disruptions.

“We have reserve pilots to help cover flying in December, and we are paying pilots who pick up certain open trips 150 percent of their hourly rate – as much as we are allowed to pay them per the contract,” American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said on Wednesday.

American Airlines

In an email to employees, American had offered pilots the extra pay to work certain flights in the holiday period. But the union filed a grievance, saying that some restrictions on overtime pay violated the group’s contract.

Budget airline Ryanair in September canceled some 2,000 flights, stranding thousands of travelers, due to pilot scheduling problems. It was unclear how much the scheduling problem will cost American Airlines, if anything. But higher labor costs have concerned investors in the past. American Airlines shares tumbled after the airline announced pay raises for pilots and flight attendants earlier this year.

The Allied Pilots Association, which represents commercial pilots, said it had not yet heard from American Airlines management about solving the issue.

"I‘m watching a ‘Grinch that stole Christmas’ thing happening,” a spokesman told Reuters.

"And we don’t want to see that happening for our passengers.”

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