'Santa Claus' Glitch Leaves Flights Pilot-less for Holidays
Now American Airlines is scrambling to staff thousands of flights
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2017 5:43 PM CST
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A scheduling glitch has left American Airlines scrambling to find pilots to operate thousands of flights over the busy Christmas holiday period.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

(Newser) – An airline pilots union says a computer glitch at American Airlines left approximately 15,000 scheduled flights during the busy December holiday travel season without a captain, co-pilot, or both, USA Today reports. The Allied Pilots Association tells CNN it learned about "a failure within the pilot scheduling bidding system" last Friday. "Thousands of flights currently do not have pilots assigned to fly them during the upcoming critical holiday period," the APA states. According to the Los Angeles Times, a computer error let too many pilots get time off for the holidays. Or as American Airlines Capt. Dennis Tajer puts it to CNBC: "The system went from responsibly scheduling everybody to becoming Santa Claus to everyone. The computer said, 'Hey ya'll. You want the days off? You got it.'"

American Airlines, which isn't confirming the number of affected flights, says it has fixed the glitch and is working to avoid canceling holiday flights. "We have reserve pilots to help cover flying in December, and we are paying pilots who pick up certain open trips 150% of their hourly rate," an American Airlines spokesperson says. This December is expected to be one of the busiest holiday travel seasons in years. Thanksgiving already saw a 3% increase in travelers over 2016.

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