It is growing increasingly clear that even at double-time pay, many American Airlines pilots have not been persuaded to give up their family holidays and fly in the days surrounding Christmas. Nevertheless, the airline is continuing to assure December travelers that there will be no cancellations.
Last week, the airline acknowledged a scheduling glitch allowed many pilots to drop their December flights, putting more than 10 thousand flights in jeopardy of cancellation. The double time for flying between December 17 and the 31st was a hastily worked-out solution intended to incentivize the pilots to pick up those flights without crews.
The pleas continued over the weekend for captains and first officers and yet some 12 hundred flights, largely in the eastern United States are still without the required crew compliment, a problem that affects both international and domestic flying.
In Charlotte, the airline is lacking more than 150 pilots for international flights between the 23rd and the 28th. It is down 200 in Dallas-Ft. Worth and in Miami as well. Chicago and New York’s LaGuardia aren’t in good shape either.
Ask pilots at the carrier and they’ll say it is no mystery why the airline is having trouble getting them back in the cockpit. Even with 10 to 20 years seniority many pilots at American still cannot get holidays off. For them, the software glitch was a gift they could not refuse.
When pilots going over their December schedule saw the green light indicating they could drop flights many probably said, “I haven’t had a Christmas my entire career” according to Dennis Tajer a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents them. When the computer showed they could opt off holiday flights, Tajer suggested, “They didn’t muddle through with ‘why?’ they just did it. Then they told their spouses and their kids.”
When asked about the predicament today, American Airlines referred me back the press release it put out last week that read, “If Santa is flying, so is American.” But Tajer told me the airline and the union, not to mention the schedulers, are meeting every day, to try and make that happen.
Sure, ’tis the season of warmth and generosity. But even with an offer to earn double time, the flight deck of an airliner is no sleigh and this year many American pilots are opting to eschew the money and play Santa at home.