American Airlines scrambles to schedule enough pilots for busy holiday flights

KOMO photo

American Airlines says a scheduling glitch allowed too many pilots to take vacation for the holidays. It means thousands of people planning to fly somewhere in December might not end up on the flight they booked.

If you hold a reservation on an American Airlines flight between December 17th and the end of the year, American says it's working to avoid cancellations.

Travel indsutry analyst Steve Danishek says he talked to an airline reservationist and managed to get a first hint of how the airline hopes minimize holiday flight fiascos.

"What they're going to do is first, keep you on American Airlines flights, so you'd get a schedule change notice. Beyond that, they may put you on a code share flight, on another carrier that does business with American."

"I would be so upset if I was a family traveling with kids," said American AIrline passenger Teresa Jones.

Jones is booked to fly home from California on American the day after Christmas. She's not happy about the potential pilot hassle but is taking it in stride.

"I figure, It's my vacation. It's the holidays! I have to go with the flow, you know. What can I do about it?"

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do in situations like this. Contrary to popular belief, federal regulations say airlines are not obligated to compensate you for delays or cancellations on domestic flights.

But you might have compensation rights if you get bumped involuntarily. There's no compensation if your substitute flight gets you to your destination within 1 our of your original arrival time.

It if your substitute flight arrives at your destination 1 to 2 hours late you get 200% of your one- way fare up to $675. If you arrive 2 or more hours late, you get 400% of the one-way fare up to $1350.

"This is a terrible time of year to try to find other options to get to your destination," said Danishek.

American is all too aware of the terrible timing. The carrier responded to KOMO news with the following written statement:

“We are working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season. We have reserve pilots to help cover flying in December, and we are paying pilots who pick up certain open trips 150 percent of their hourly rate – as much as we are allowed to pay them per the contract. We will work with the APA (Airline Pilots Association) to take care of our pilots and ensure we get our customers to where they need to go over the holidays.”

If you're booked on an American flight during the last 2 weeks of December check for alerts on the carrier's website and make sure the airline has your up to date contact information- so they can alert you of any changes.

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