American Faces Pilot Shortage During Christmas Travel Period

Merry Christmas? Maybe, maybe not.

Travel over the Thanksgiving holiday period was robust, and predictions are for similarly strong demand for air travel during the period between Christmas and New Year’s. For most airlines, that’s good news. For American, however, it’s a potential nightmare.

As has been widely reported, a glitch in American’s scheduling software allowed the airline to approve vacation time for too many pilots between December 17 and the end of the year, resulting in too few pilots to operate American’s flights during that critical period. According to a New York Times report, around 15,000 flights could be affected.

To plug the gap, American has offered pilots time-and-a-half pay to reschedule their vacations. But the Allied Pilots Association, the union which represents American’s pilots, called the extra-pay solution into question, warning that “neither APA nor the contract can guarantee the promised payment of the premium being offered.”

In the end, cooler heads are likely to prevail, avoiding widespread flight cancellations. Service disruptions are in the best interest of neither the company nor its pilots, to say nothing of the airline’s passengers.

Still, anyone planning to fly American during the affected period should pay close attention to any developments in the standoff, and be prepared to book a different carrier if the situation isn’t resolved.

Reader Reality Check

How does this affect your holiday travel plans?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.

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