Crisis averted? It seems Christmas is not ruined — yet.
After a computer glitch that gave too many American Airlines pilots vacation time in December and put more than 15,000 holiday flights in jeopardy of cancellation, according to estimates by the Allied Pilots Association, the airline is now close to a resolution.
Out of 200,000 flights American will operate in December, “only a few hundred” currently don’t have pilots, said American Airlines spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello in an update Thursday, after the malfunction was made public Wednesday.
But the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 15,000 American Airlines pilots, refutes that number.
The Fort Worth, Texas-based union said in a statement Thursday that it’s able to view in “real time” the December flight crew announcements.
While American Airlines says only a “few hundred” flights remain without pilots, the Allied Pilots Association says the true number of flights still in jeopardy on cancellation is in the “thousands.”
“That data does not support management’s statement regarding December flights that ‘only a few hundred are currently unassigned to pilots,’” the union said.
In fact, it estimates that “thousands” of flights are still unassigned to pilots.
“We remain seriously concerned about the potential for significant schedule disruption for our passengers, pilots, and fellow employees during the critical holiday travel season,” the union said.
While both groups are looking at the same system, Aran Coello said that American is also taking into account its reserve pilots available for the month, which is part of the airline’s forward schedule. American has more reserve pilots on hand in December than normal months, she said, which will help cover the gaps caused by the glitch.
“When reserve is included, and you look at the number of pilots jumping in to sign up for trips, there are only a few hundred flights left that still need to be covered,” she said.
American has offered 1.5-times regular pay to pilots who volunteer to fly the affected flights, the majority of which run from Dec. 17 to Dec. 31.
“That number of open flights continues to decrease thanks to our pilots who are stepping up to the plate and picking up trips to ensure customers are taken care of,” Aran Coello said in a statement.
The leading airline has not yet canceled any scheduled flights in December as a result of the glitch, Aran Coello said, and “will continue to work to ensure both our pilots and our customers are cared for.”
News of the glitch caused some travelers with flights in December to try to cancel their flights in case American later did so.
“If you’re going somewhere at Christmas on American Airlines, best to cancel that flight now, save your holiday and stay home. #iwontbehomeforchristmas #unfriendlyskies” tweeted user @casunprincess, playing on United Airline’s slogan of “Fly the friendly skies.”
And, of course, the jokes flowed: “I never fly American Airlines...until this Christmas. Now they’re telling me they might cancel 15,000 flights because of a computer glitch? You guys still runnin’ Windows Vista?” tweeted user @DCDDawg.
This holiday travel season is expected to be a particularly busy one, experts say. According to one estimate from airline deals website Airfarewatchdog, a poll of 1,300 travelers found that 46 percent planned to fly this holiday season — the highest figure since 2013.