American airlines has accidentally given all its pilots holiday over the festive period meaning as many as 15,000 flights could be grounded.

The airline is facing mass Christmas disruption after accidentally allowing all its pilots holiday during 17 to 31 December, over the peak festive period.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA) Union is blaming a glitch in the system for the error, while the airline insists they aim to run all scheduled flights over Christmas.

The airline is the second that appear to have messed up its pilots’ work schedules, after Ryanair suffered an “pilot rostering failure” in September which led to 20,000 flights being grounded.

He told CNBC:

“The 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.'”

The union said its pilots found out about the error on Friday, and the APA has since filed a grievance.

American Airlines has offered to pay pilots time and a half if they work on certain flights during the season. The contract means they cannot offer any more overtime pay.

American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said:

“We are working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season.

“We have reserve pilots to help cover flying in December, and we are paying pilots who pick up certain open trips 150 percent of their hourly rate – as much as we are allowed to pay them per the contract.

“We will work with the APA to take care of our pilots and ensure we get our customers to where they need to go over the holidays.”

The APA statement reads:

“On Friday, management disclosed a failure within the pilot schedule bidding system. As a result, thousands of flights currently do not have pilots assigned to fly them during the upcoming critical holiday period.

“Today, management issued an update detailing the ‘significant holes’ in the operation and unilaterally invoked a solution for crewing affected flights.

“Management’s actions are in direct violation of your contract.”

The union is unhappy that it was not involved “in developing collaborative solutions to this critical holiday scheduling failure”, and says: “Because management unilaterally created their solution in violation of the contract, neither APA nor the contract can guarantee the promised payment of the premium being offered.”






Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.