Glitch at American Airlines could spell trouble for Christmas travel season

Union Many American Airlines flights in December lack scheduled pilots

But while headlines like the inevitable "Glitch that Stole Christmas" have given ticket-holders some agita, American said that it is working to resolve the problem, which would affect flights scheduled between December 17 and the end of the year.

But the union that represents American Airlines' pilots disputes the airline's calculations, saying "thousands of flights are still listed as unassigned".

"The airline is a 24/7 op", Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines captain and union spokesman, told CNBC.

The world's largest airline hasn't scrubbed any scheduled flights next month, spokesman Matt Miller said Thursday in an email. The airline now offers daily flights from the Rochester International Airport to Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

This means that a much larger than normal number of the airliner's pilots are scheduled for vacation between December 17 and December 31.

The glitch caused the scheduling system to show that American had ample staffing coverage for some planned flights when it actually didn't, Miller said.

Thousands of pilots were able to schedule breaks December 17-31, leaving flights scheduled to depart from American's most bustling hubs pilotless, including airports in New York City, Miami, Dallas and Chicago. Still, industry experts say the increased complexity of airline computer systems is to blame for a growing number of glitches that have recently grounded airplanes and posted ultra-cheap airfares.

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Earlier this year, Ryanair, a budget airline in Ireland, cancelled close to 2,000 flights in September so its staff could take a vacation, leaving thousands of flyers without flights for their holidays. You want the days off?

The carrier issued the following statement: " We are working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season.

"In addition, we have more reserve pilots on hand in December than normal months, and they provide us with the ability to fly numerous trips that are now uncovered", spokesman Matt Miller said.

'We will work with the APA to take care of our pilots and ensure we get our customers to where they need to go over the holidays'. But the number was high enough that the carrier had to quickly adopt several new measures to keep its holiday flights on schedule.

Management disclosed the error on Friday, the union said in a statement on its website. 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.

Mr Tajer added: "I'm watching a 'Grinch that stole Christmas" thing happening.

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