Major U.S carrier American Airlines triples its pilots’ pay from the normal rate after a devastating computer glitch left thousands of flights lacking pilots in the cockpit and unable to operate as normal as a result.

Modern problems require modern solutions

American Airlines experienced a significant computer glitch that caused a malfunction in its scheduling programme last Saturday morning. 

The error forced the U.S’ largest airline to cancel nearly 200 flights – approximately 6% of its schedule – this Wednesday. More than 800 flights – approximately 26% of scheduled flights – were delayed as a consequence of the glitch.

The glitch also offered the perfect and unexpected opportunity for American’s pilots to take some time off over the month of July as they found several of their scheduled flights deleted from their rota while others were able to drop flights from their July rota.

According to the Allied Pilots Association (APA), the pilots union at American Airlines, the number of flights scheduled to fly left with either only one pilot or no pilots allocated to the service quickly rose past 12,000. 

To combat the situation and ensure that the carrier did not have to cancel a drastic amount of scheduled services, the Fort Worth-based airline opted to offer its pilots a one-time windfall of triple their usual pay. 

The generous offer is for pilots who fly on peak days. Peak days typically fall during the summer holiday period (July – September, roughly). 

American Airlines
American has a whopping fleet size of 913 aircraft and travels to 350 destinations. As of April of this year, the U.S carrier operates the largest commercial fleet in the world. | © GETTY IMAGES

In a statement, American Airlines commented on their pleasure that the matter was resolved quickly:

“We’re pleased to have reached an agreement with the APA and appreciate their partnership in coming to a resolution quickly to take care of our pilots, our team and our customers.”

Dennis Tajer, an American pilot and spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, said that negotiations between American’s new CEO Robert Isom and the leadership of the union meant that things got back to normal relatively quickly. 

Isom took over as American Airlines’ CEO at the end of March this year. 

Tajer shared his thoughts on the matter:

“You had a system under duress already without enough pilots. This IT failure would have caused problems for the month of July if nothing had been done. We’re cautiously optimistic that Mr Isom sees the value of working with us.”

President of the APA, Ed Sicher, said in a letter to the union’s members that he hopes that this agreement can act as a springboard to reaching a new contract for pilots that fly for American. 

The issue of negotiating a new contract has been active since 2019 as the pandemic derailed its progress. As of now, pilots for American continue to work under the terms of a 2015 contract. 

This comes as the Texas-based carrier has struggled, just like most of its competition, to deal with the surge in demand coupled with staff shortages causing a wave of cancellations. In June, American was forced to bench 100 regional aircraft due to struggles with pilot shortages

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