No joke, American Airlines really has an expensive pilot-holiday problem

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At first it seemed like a hoax, but it turns out that American Airlines really does have a pilot scheduling crisis on its hands during the busy holiday season.

Allied Pilots, the union that represents American Airlines pilots, said they were told about a computer glitch in the pilot schedule bidding system on Friday. It’s a program that allows the Texas-based company to manage all-important flight crew scheduling, and it’s also how pilots applied for vacation over the holiday season. The system malfunctioned and any pilot who put in for it was cleared for a time-off takeoff.

In short, all the pilots are on Christmas vacation. “As a result, thousands of flights currently do not have pilots assigned to fly them during the upcoming critical holiday period,” the union said in a statement. American Airlines is offering pay incentives to put pilots on planes, with reports of a 50 percent pay premium over regular salary, and still hopes to avoid cancellations.

As it stands right now, though, this really expensive mistake jeopardizes up to 15,000 flights – and it left a lot of people worried about their vacations or home-for-the-holidays travel plans.

“We want to keep customers flying this holiday season and fully expect to avoid cancellations,” the company’s customer service team said late Wednesday, in one of countless messages to travelers.

“We let all of our customers know of any cancellations as far in advance as possible,” the team said in another while offering a notification sign-up link for customers to keep up with flight information.

While some customers were clearly stressed, others shared messages in which they saw the humor. That may be a good thing, because as holiday travel season approaches they’re likely to need it.

Image: American Airlines

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