A scheduling glitch has left American Airlines without enough pilots and staff during the busy December travel period, the airline's pilot union said on Wednesday.
The Allied Pilots Association, which represents employees for American Airlines, said on Wednesday that a scheduling error from the airline may affect more than 15,000 flights from December 17 to 31, according to Reuters.
Airline spokesman Matt Miller said the system viewed by the union does not register flights that American expects to fill with reserve pilots until the day before the flight.
As a result, American Airlines' top brass are scrambling in an attempt to rectify the problem, offering increased pay to lure the scheduled vacation pilots back to work that week.
"The airline is a 24/7 op", Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines captain and a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association told CNBC.
"That data does not support management's statement regarding December flights that 'only a few hundred are now unassigned to pilots, ' " the union said.
Miller said American's leadership spoke to the APA Wednesday afternoon to hammer out a resolution to the staffing shortage. "The system went from responsibly scheduling everybody to becoming Santa Claus to everyone".
"We are working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season", American Airlines said.
If the flights are canceled, not only would travelers lose out during one of the biggest travel periods of the year, but American could forfeit millions in revenue. The computer said, Hey ya'll. The group on Tuesday filed a grievance against management for "improperly restricting" the ability to earn extra pay on some trips and has been vocal about its concerns regarding American's willingness to work collaboratively to resolve the issue. Pilots were allowed to take vacation days in the last two weeks of December even if there wasn't another pilot available to operate the flight.
But the pilots' union is urging crews not to take these assignments because they might violate the union contract.
Shares of American Airlines Group Inc lost almost US$2 after news of the glitch, although they still closed up 3 cents at US$49.25.