American Airlines says it has pilots for the holidays. Pilots say no.

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer

On Wednesday, news broke that American Airlines (AAL) was without pilots for around 15,000 flights during the holidays from Dec. 17 to 31, due to a computer glitch.

The app that the pilots and airline uses for trip assignments, Trip Trade, allows pilots to decline or trade certain trips if they want to. On the app, trips that can be traded show up “green,” and for some reason, not fully explained, the app showed all the flights during the holidays as green. Trips in “red” are locked in.

Not surprisingly, pilots, who don’t want to work on the holidays, dropped trips. American Airlines, however, said all is well.

“Out of the 200,000 flights American will operate in December, only a few hundred are currently unassigned to pilots,” the statement read. The airline cited “pilots who are stepping up to the plate” and “reserve pilots” as the saviors of the situation, and said it had not canceled any scheduled flights in December.

This statement has left pilots scratching their heads, however.

American Airlines’ scheduling app says ‘thousands’ of flights unassigned

“For them to say that… we’re confused,” said Captain Dennis Tajer, the Allied Pilots Association union’s communications chair. “I pulled data today. Currently there’s thousands of unassigned flights, so I’m not sure what they’re looking at. All our pilots can pull the same data.”

If American Airlines’ Trip Trade app is indeed correct, then thousands of holiday trips are in jeopardy of being cancelled. The concerned union has been attempting to get in touch with management, but to no avail. The APA has been trying to work out a deal to finally figure out a satisfactory holiday pay schedule, which has long been a thorn in the side of pilots. So far, American Airlines has not been open to negotiating.

“They haven’t even given us a meeting, none,” said Tajer, who noted that both parties have creative ideas they need to discuss. The two parties have only had one phone call.

Solving the problem is tricky, given that the pilots have little incentive to move their schedules around to fix a screw-up. In fact, said Tajer, a pilot moving his or her schedule around could result in losing “premium” pay trips, which pay 150%, because of Federal Aviation Administration regulations — a net loss for helping.

“There’s a level where you want to help out, but they’re being punitive,” said Tajer.

Where it stands now is unclear, given the conflicting statements between American Airline’s public relations department and the airline’s Trip Trade app, but Tajer said the pilots remain committed to getting passengers where they need to go.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” he said, ”I just know we’re screaming from the rooftops into an empty canyon when it comes to getting this resolved.”

American Airlines did not respond to Yahoo Finance’s request for comment on the discrepancy.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann. Confidential tip line: FinanceTips[at]oath[.com].

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