Traveling by air this summer has gotten off to a rocky start. Starting on Memorial Day weekend, it was apparent that the airlines couldn’t handle the number of passengers who purchased tickets. Any problem, from weather delays, mechanical issues and even (but not often) Air Traffic Control slowdowns, threw the system into chaos.
We’ve been to the airport once this summer, and fortunately, our flights were relatively smooth. Our Southwest flight was delayed because of ATC limitations, but we reached our destination. Our flight home was with American and that was, schedule-wise, our best experience in 2022. That’s amazing because we were traveling on a day when American’s schedules suffered a meltdown because of weather problems in Charlotte, a major hub between the south and the northeastern US.
We have a few more flights planned with American Airlines, so I was worried when I saw the news about a scheduling glitch that allowed pilots to drop scheduled flights. According to CNBC:
More than 12,000 July flights lacked either a captain, first officer, or both, after pilots dropped assignments, the Allied Pilots Association said Saturday. APA said the airline reinstated about 80% of the trips.
When an airline publishes a mistake fare, the US government has decided that they’re able to cancel tickets and only issue refunds and reimburse non-refundable bookings. American Airlines tried the same trick with its employees and just reinstated the shifts that were “mistakenly” canceled.
However, things don’t go that way when working with an organized workforce. Allied Pilots Association, which is “the certified collective bargaining agent for all American Airlines pilots” began negotiations with the airline to find terms under which pilots would agree to work shifts affected by the glitch.
American Airlines will be able to resolve scheduling uncertainty caused by the scheduling error, but it will cost them.
The APA Board of Directors has ratified an agreement that provides:
• Permanent double pay for specific holiday periods
• Permanent deletion of premium offset for sick hours used in the same month
• Triple pay to pilots who fly a July sequence affected by Saturday’s glitch pic.twitter.com/O1zSNTVnbq
— Allied Pilots (@AlliedPilots) July 6, 2022
Pilots will get triple pay for flights in July affected by the glitch. They’ve also negotiated for double-pay on holidays, up from the current time and a half paid for those shifts. I’m not as clear about the treatment of sick time and what that means for the airline and pilots.
As a passenger, I don’t have any sympathy for American Airlines. This isn’t the first time its scheduling software screwed up, as they had a similar problem in December 2017. When it comes to customers customers, we have little recourse when the airline screws us with delays or cancellations. In 2021, the airline put a $0 fare on sale for 31 markets but refused to honor any of the reservations.
In this case, they were dealing with employees and not customers. The error put the airline in a difficult position. If they had taken a hard line, the pilots could have just not shown up for a shift they didn’t agree to accept, leading to cancellations, upset customers and plenty of bad press.
By paying triple time to the pilots and making concessions for ongoing pay for holidays and sick time, they’ll be able to fly (most) of the planned schedule. As a customer who has already purchased tickets, I’m glad they were able to come to an agreement.
I’m sure American Airlines’ stockholders and management aren’t as happy with the outcome. Maybe this will result in them fixing the issue which has caused this to happen, twice. In addition, American’s new CEO is undoubtedly thrilled about having to clean up the operational mess left by previous management.
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