A glitch in the scheduling system for American Airlines allowed pilots to cancel entire trips for July causing mayhem if only momentarily.
A Glitch In Scheduling
American Airlines experienced a “glitch” in its pilot scheduling software that led to 37,000 flight hours being returned to “open” meaning a pilot was no longer slated to fly the route.
“More than 12,000 July flights lacked either a captain, first officer or both, after pilots dropped assignments, the Allied Pilots Association said earlier.” – NBC New York
A similar event occurred in 2017 during the holiday rush.
News of the issue reached a head when a letter was shared and then broadcasted on a popular insider’s Twitter page. The always excellent @xJonNYC on Twitter shared the following from the Allied Pilot Association, the pilot union for American Airlines:
— 🇺🇦 JonNYC 🇺🇦 (@xJonNYC) July 2, 2022
Here’s the transcript of the message purportedly signed by APA President, Capt. Ed Sicher:
As many of you are already aware, management’s trip trade system allowed many July trips to turn “green” last
night, resulting in more than 2,000 sequences and 37,000 flying hours to be dropped into open time. Once again,
AA’s operational mismanagement is at the heart of an issue that will soon go public.
We have been here before. There is an immediate benefit to agreeing on a win-win solution to finally fixing our
trip trade system, a problem essential to improving our quality of life.
We have had realistic proposals at the negotiating table for more than three and a half years, which include
minimum pre-plotted holiday (premium) pay incentives and a sliding premium scale that allows management to
use variable incentives to fill open time. This is how most of corporate America fills their schedules for the
holidays – through incentives, not force.
Management has simply rebuffed our efforts, effectively charging us to fix their problems by reducing other
contractual “asks” against their perceived cost of this one, as if we would be the only ones to benefit. Let’s hope
that given the crisis they have once again created, they can now see the wisdom in collaboratively working on
I encourage Mr. Isom to re-engage us, and hope that you, the front-line leaders of this airline, continue to fly
safely and keep distractions like these “in the map case” as we negotiate solutions that will enhance your quality
Fly safe! In Unity, CA Ed Sicher President, Allied Pilots Association”
American Airlines is in a summer of hell like the rest of the major airlines, not just in the United States but abroad too. It will be interesting to note just how bad the current on-time metrics get (a flight is considered to arrive late when arrival is delayed at least 15 minutes) but we won’t see that for a few months.
Luckily, late last night, the scheduling matter was resolved and the trips were restored. This summer American Airlines didn’t need any more problems, this one would have been particularly difficult.
In what could be the busiest season on record, and pilots are specifically a pain point, this would have been an additional mountain of discord for the carrier to bear and would have added to a mile-long list of unhappy workers, customers, and management.
How Will American Airlines Remedy The Problem?
The glitch was fixed but it appears, based on the letter sent and made public that there is a wider problem with pilots at American. To call out the carrier using the words, “Once again, AA’s operational mismanagement is at the heart of an issue” and “I encourage Mr. Isom to re-engage us” suggests that it’s not just money but “quality of life” issues on the table for American Airlines pilots.
This event happened over a holiday weekend, was fixed the same day, and while it caused a day of panic among crews, management, and the wider public, the airline will not likely suffer any material penalty in the form of its stock quote.
The lasting damage is the public exchange demonstrating that pilots are not happy despite pay bumps and do not trust management to make positive real-time decisions or the software that controls so much of their work lives.
American Airlines had a scheduling issue that temporarily caused 12,000 flights to be without one of the required pilots if not both. The union was quick to respond to the issue with claims of operational mismanagement. The carrier dodged a bullet but may not be so lucky in the future if they are unable to improve software, decimating the carrier’s ability to perform at a time of peak travel.
What do you think? Was the “glitch” a sign of American Airlines’ operational mismanagement? Was it just an accident? What happens if it occurs without such a quick fix?