A Computer Error Let Every American Airlines Pilot Take Christmas Off and Now Who’s Gonna Fly Us Home [Updated]

Image: American Airlines
Image: American Airlines

Traveling during the holidays is already a nightmare, but for people flying American Airlines during the last two weeks in December, things may have just gotten a whole lot worse.

That’s because according to the Allied Pilots Association union, a glitch in the system American Airlines uses to schedule time off for pilots was erroneously green-lighting every single PTO request. This has left American Airlines with a huge shortage of crew members affecting an estimated 15,000 flights between December 17th and December 31st.

Currently the union is reportedly working with AA to address the shortage, with American offering pilots up to 150 percent of their normal hourly wages to work over the holidays. However, the union says American’s proposal would be in violation of the group’s overtime rules.


Based on a company memo sent to Bloomberg, it seems that flights currently without a captain, first officer, or both, are based out of American Airlines’ largest hub, Dallas-Forth Worth International, along with Boston, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and Charlotte.

American says it has fixed the glitch, but it remains to be seen how the company plans to staff its flights without causing a large number of cancellations.

[Update: December 1st, 5:10 PM] According to CNBC, American Airlines has reached an agreement with the Allied Pilots Association to resolve the airline’s holiday staffing issues.



Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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Besides this potentially driving prices way up on American (and would other airlines be affected?), would this affect my already purchased tickets home that are on Christmas day and New Years Eve?