Thousands of American Airlines flights over the holiday season are in danger of cancellation because an error in the company’s internal scheduling system gave too many pilots time off, its union said on Wednesday.
American was scrambling to fill the scheduling hole by offering pilots 1.5 times their normal pay, said Gregg Overman, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association. But the union, which represents more than 15,000 pilots, filed a grievance, saying that the premium pay was not covered by its contract and that the airline couldn’t guarantee payment.
It was not yet clear on Wednesday whether any flights would be canceled or delayed. Mr. Overman said about 15,000 flights from Dec. 17 to the end of the year were affected.
“I’m sorry I can’t offer any guidance other than: Stay tuned,” Mr. Overman said. “And here’s hoping the folks running the airline come to us and are willing to sit down and work through it, because we don’t have a solution at this point.”
American said in a statement that it expected to avoid cancellations.
“We will work with the A.P.A. to take care of our pilots and ensure we get our customers to where they need to go over the holidays,” the company said.
The flights that currently have no scheduled pilots originate from cities including Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Washington; Dallas-Fort Worth; New York; Miami; Chicago; and Philadelphia, Mr. Overman said.
It was not immediately known how the scheduling error happened. The airline assigns flights to pilots, but pilots can use the internal system to drop or trade flight assignments. Normally, the pilots wouldn’t be able to drop flights unless someone can cover them, but the error allowed any drop requests to go through, and “an extraordinarily large number of pilots” planned around it, Mr. Overman said.
“At this point, it’s a big problem,” he said. “The last thing we want to see is any kind of massive schedule disruption around the holidays.”