American Airlines scheduling glitch allows pilots to drop thousands of July flights

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An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner approaches for a landing at the Miami International Airport on December 10, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

A glitch in a scheduling program allowed American Airlines pilots to drop thousands of trips in July, their union said Saturday, a headache for the airline as it tries to minimize flight disruptions during a booming travel season.

Pilots dropped more than 2,000 July trips and each trip usually contains at least two flights, the union said, so it could impact at least double that amount.

On Saturday alone, American had more than 3,000 mainline flights scheduled and they were 93% full, according to an internal tally. Flights left unstaffed, however, are an additional strain on any airline.

Time-off in the summer is hard to come by for airline employees as schedules hit peaks to cater to strong demand.

American said it is aware of the issue and has suspended a platform that allows pilots to change their schedules.

“We understand these are important tools for our pilots and are working as quickly as possible. We will provide updates throughout the day as we learn more,” American told pilots in an email Saturday.

The carrier didn’t immediately say whether cancellations were possible.

“They failed to keep the IT system running properly and now thousands of flights do not have pilots assigned to them,” said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union. He said the issue creates “uncertainty for passengers and pilots.”

A similar issue occurred in 2017, when a technology problem let American’s pilots take vacation during the busy December holiday period. The carrier offered pilots 150% pay to pick up assignments.

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