Due to a computer scheduling error that left thousands of flights with understaffed cockpits, American Airlines has agreed to pay its pilots triple their usual rate.
Early on Saturday morning, a glitch in the scheduling software allowed pilots to cancel flights that the airline was counting on them to fly for the rest of the month in order to take time off. The Allied Pilots Association, the pilots union at American, which employs about 13,000 APA members, reported that the number of flights with one or both required pilots missing quickly exceeded the 12,000 mark.
The airline has also agreed to a permanent double-time pay for pilots who fly on peak days, which frequently coincide with holiday travel periods, even though the triple pay is a one-time windfall for American’s pilots.
The airline issued a statement in which it said, “We’re pleased to have reached an agreement with the APA and appreciate their partnership in coming to a resolution quickly to take care of our pilots, our team, and our customers.
The issue arises as American and other US carriers battle to manage a spike in flight cancellations caused by a lack of staff.
Due to a crew member shortage, the entire airline industry has so far this summer had to cancel thousands of US flights. These cancellations frequently increase during holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day, the weekend of Father’s Day, Juneteenth, and the Fourth of July holiday. Additionally, last year’s Christmas and New Year’s travel period saw a spike in cancellations.
The biggest airline in the country experienced its own set of issues as a result of the computer error. According to flight tracking service FlightAware, on Wednesday, nearly 200 American flights, or roughly 6% of the schedule, were canceled, and more than 800 flights, or roughly 26% of the schedule, experienced delays.
Speaking on behalf of American, Matt Miller said he was unaware of how many flights were affected by the scheduling mix-up and how many were cancelled or delayed on Wednesday. However, American pilot Dennis Tajer, a union representative, asserted that it was evident that the scheduling issues were the root of the majority of the problems.
Tajer added that things returned to normal fairly quickly after talks between American’s new CEO, Robert Isom, and the leadership of the pilots union.
Tajer remarked, “You already had a system under pressure with insufficient pilots. If nothing had been done, this IT issue would have been problematic for the entire month of July. We have a cautious amount of optimism that Mr. Isom will find working with us to be beneficial.
In a message to members, APA President Ed Sicher expressed his hope that this agreement could serve as a springboard for negotiating a new labor agreement for American’s pilots.
The union and the airline had been negotiating a new contract since 2019, but the pandemic thwarted efforts to reach a long-term agreement. The terms of a 2015 contract that was supposed to be renegotiated in 2020 are still in effect for pilots.