That glittery gift that American Airlines pilots found in the toe of their stocking? Turns out it was a potential lump of coal for passengers.
What happened was a problem with their pilot scheduling system that allowed too many pilots to sign up for time off during December. Home for the holidays, avoiding some potentially crappy weather, not flying during a stressful time of year when so many travelers are hyped and/or crazed and/or freaked? What’s not to like?
“We are working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season,” [American spokesman Matt] Miller said. The number of flights involved will decline each day as the carrier reassigns them, he said. (Source: Bloomberg)
The airline is hoping not to have to do any wholesale cancellations, and is offering pilots 1.5x their regular hourly rate. But they may have to up the ante. Kind of like when they try to bribe people to give up their seats on an overbooked plane. Always best to wait until at least the second offer. But, as we’ve learned, you can’t wait too long or you risk getting dragged off the plane. In this case, would AA have to dragoon pilots and drag them on the plane?
American also plans to tap their roster of “reserve” pilots. This would make me a tad bit nervous if I were flying. Just who are these “reserve” pilots? Old guys who may have lost their edge? Young pilots who haven’t yet found theirs?
The computer-system problem will force American to rebuild its staffing schedule, similar to what airlines must do after major weather disruptions, said John Cox, chief executive officer of consultant Safety Operating Systems and a former commercial airline pilot. Revenue will take a hit if American has to scrub many flights. At a minimum, the carrier is likely to face higher labor costs just as investors are stepping up scrutiny of airline expenses.
Personally, I won’t be losing any sleep over American taking a revenue hit. They’ve definitely been more on the naughty side this year than on the nice side. (C.f., passenger dragged off plane. I will note that it was United, however, who invoked some obscure dress code rule for employees’ families traveling standby to keep some kids off of a too-crowded plane.)
The pilots union, the Allied Pilots Association, doesn’t like the solutions that have been proposed so far. They’ve filed a grievance, claiming that the offer “violates its labor pact.” They want to find a solution that’s a bit richer than 1.5x pay.
Flights that are scheduled without a captain, first officer or both originate from Dallas-Fort Worth International, American’s largest hub, and airports in Boston, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, North Carolina, according to a company memo to the union, which was seen by Bloomberg News.
I’d be okay flying without a flight attendant or two, but – even though the planes are highly automated – I really wouldn’t want to be captain-less. Or in a situation where God was my co-pilot.
Glad I’m just a little old stay-at-home…