Oops! Computer glitch lets too many American Airlines pilots take Christmas off

computer glitch american airlines christmas plane
Markus Mainka/123RF

Computers. Aren’t they supposed to make our lives easier? Officials at American Airlines must be using a few choice words about the company’s computer systems this week after it emerged that a glitch allowed too many of its pilots to book time off over the Christmas period.

As a result of the hiccup, American is now frantically trying to persuade its pilots to change their plans and come in to work during one of the busiest times of the year.

In a statement, the carrier said it’s “working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season.”

The Allied Pilots Association (APA) estimated that more than 15,000 American flights scheduled between December 17 and 31 have been affected by the computer error.

APA spokesperson Dennis Tajer, speaking to CNBC on Wednesday, November 29, said there is currently “a crisis at American for manning the cockpits.”

He added that the computer system “went from responsibly scheduling everybody, to becoming Santa Claus to everyone. The computer said, ‘Hey ya’ll, you want the days off? You got it.'”

In an effort to get pilots to alter their plans and climb back into the cockpit over Christmas, American is offering 150 percent of their hourly rate on some routes. It’s also calling on its roster of reserve pilots to help out.

American is by no means the only carrier that’s had to deal with computer glitches over the last couple of years. In January 2017, both Delta and United were hit with issues that caused flight delays across the U.S.

Delta had an even bigger problem in the summer of 2016 when a computer system outage at its hub in Georgia, Atlanta, resulted in the cancellation and grounding of flights around the world.

The technical issues are an indication of the sheer complexity of the computer systems powering the airlines’ global operations, with every glitch, bug, and snag costing an affected carrier potentially millions of dollars, along with a hit to their reputation.

Flying with American between December 17 and 31? Then you’d better consider contacting the airline to make sure your plane has a pilot.

If you fear the worst, check out Digital Trends’ informative piece about what you can do when a tech meltdown grounds your flight.