Potential Christmas Flight Fiasco For American Airlines. In Other News, A New Job Became Available.

Believing that American Airlines is one of the largest commercial aviation operations in the world when a misstep occurs — whether the cause is information technology or human error — can be rather difficult when at least hundreds of flights scheduled during the holiday season have no pilots assigned to them.

Huh?!?

Potential Christmas Flight Fiasco For American Airlines. In Other News, A New Job Became Available.

When the news was released about this potential Christmas flight fiasco — which resulted in many people being incredulous to this development — damage control was exercised by American Airlines in the form of this official announcement released earlier today which attempts to explain what happened:

Out of the 200,000 flights American will operate in December, only a few hundred are currently unassigned to pilots. That number of open flights continues to decrease thanks to our pilots who are stepping up to the plate and picking up trips to ensure customers are taken care of. It’s another example of why we are thankful to have such an incredible team. In addition, we have more reserve pilots on hand in December than normal months and they provide us with the ability to fly many of the trips that are currently uncovered. We have not canceled any scheduled flights in December and will continue to work to ensure both our pilots and our customers are cared for.

Not withstanding the poor grammar in that announcement, what exactly is a few hundred? 300? 400? 500?

Does the number of flights affected really matter? The only flight about which you should care is the one for which you booked your ticket. If that one flight was canceled because no pilot was assigned to it, do you really care about the other 499 flights?

As for stepping up to the plate, exactly how much is American Airlines spending to coax those pilots — reserve or otherwise — to rectify this situation? I cannot imagine that the cost is cheap by any stretch of the imagination.

Is the Number a “Few Hundred” — Or More Like Thousands?

The following official statement from the Allied Pilots Association — which was released approximately two hours after the release of the official announcement from American Airlines — tends to differ:

The Allied Pilots Association is able to view in real time December flight crew assignments for American Airlines. That data does not support management’s statement regarding December flights that “only a few hundred are currently unassigned to pilots.” In fact, thousands of flights are still listed as unassigned.

We remain seriously concerned about the potential for significant schedule disruption for our passengers, pilots, and fellow employees during the critical holiday travel season.

…so who is more accurate?

Want to Be Director, Crew Scheduling for American Airlines?

In a completely unrelated development — yeah, right — American Airlines is seeking someone to fill the job position Director, Crew Scheduling. That job opening coincidentally became available after the news pertaining to the aforementioned pilot scheduling debacle was released and has nothing to do with it…

…right?!?

If you are successful in securing this job, you will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of scheduling members of flight crews. You will provide leadership and direction to the Crew Scheduling Team with an emphasis on providing the best possible service to our crewmembers while delivering a reliable and efficient operation.

You will also perform these roles and duties in Fort Worth — fort what it is worth.

If you possess the following qualifications, perhaps you might want to consider applying for the position:

  • Undergraduate degree in aviation or related field, or equivalent experience/training; advanced degree preferred
  • A minimum of 6 years crew management experience
  • Experience negotiating labor contracts preferred
  • Strong analytical skills
  • In-depth knowledge of airline operations and crew management systems
  • Advanced knowledge of CBAs and FARs
  • Excellent project management and organizational skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, with the ability to effectively interact with employees at all levels within the organization
  • Strong leadership presence, high energy, and ability to work under pressure
  • Highly proficient in Microsoft Office

Summary

The main goal of an airline is to transport people from one place to another as safely, efficiently and comfortably as possible. That requires scheduling flights, which requires assigning pilots to those flights. Is that not basic commercial aviation 101?

Sometimes it seems like airlines are trying so hard to figure out how to squeeze every last dollar out of their customers while simultaneously increasing the complexity and difficulty of the overall travel experience for them that management seems to either skip over some of the basic yet important details in running an airline — or neglecting the information technology which is necessary to keep operations ongoing as smoothly as possible.

People make mistakes. I am certainly not immune to that by a long shot…

…but scheduling flights without pilots? Even a layperson with no aviation experience would think that was a priority — let alone a major airline, for which this situation is nothing short of a significant embarrassment. Members of FlyerTalk are having a field day discussing this topic.

In the meantime, if you have already booked a flight with American Airlines for next month, ensure that you keep yourself as updated as possible regarding the latest developments — and hopefully, your flight will not be affected…

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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