American Airlines Pilots Union To Members: “Enjoy Your Time Off” You Don’t Have To Fly

American Airlines made a big error with pilot schedules. Knowing they are short of pilots needed to fly all of the trips they’ve sold this month, they sent out a memo that certain pilots would not be able to trade their trips at all – even when they’ve got someone willing and able to cover them.

Only instead of blocking trip trades they actually opened things up and allowed pilots to remove themselves from trips completely for a period of time. And several of them did this, totaling 2000 flight sequences and 37,000 hours of flying.

My guess was that American Airlines would quickly added back these flights onto pilots schedules even though the pilots union says this violates their contract. American’s position would be “grieve it” and eventually it might cost them some money. That’s basically what they did, it seems. Late Saturday afternoon they told me,

We already have restored the vast majority of the affected trips and do not anticipate any operational impact because of this issue.

The pilots union says not so fast and – as shared by the inscrutable JonNYC – is telling pilots who were affected not to fly the trips, that:

  • The trips were dropped properly (American’s claim of a ‘technical glitch’ notwithstanding)
  • The contract doesn’t allow the airline to add flights to pilot schedules unilaterally
  • So they don’t have to fly, and the union has their back

— 🇺🇦 JonNYC 🇺🇦 (@xJonNYC) July 2, 2022

In the end,

  • American knows they’ve screwed up
  • They’re unlikely to pursue discipline against pilots who dropped trips and refuse to take those trips back – remember, they’re already short on pilots, they’re in the midst of a contract negotiation with their pilots, and the pilots union has a new leader who needs to show toughness
  • But they can’t let this impact their operation, so they will offer premium pay to those pilots who do take back their trips as they did with a similar screwup over the holidays in 2017
  • They may need the union’s agreement to offer enough premium pay, so they’re going to have to give something more broadly too. Put another way, they may not be able to reward only the pilots who took advantage of the glitch.

It’s a mess, but a mess that can be fixed with money. As a result if American somehow doesn’t fix it, it’s a huge failure of management. So it’s also a test of the new management team whose orders are normally to not spend a dollar more than they need to.

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