American Airlines May Have Further Sabotaged Their Operation With One Scheduling Mistake

Without enough staff to run published schedules, and with a lot knowledge about how to run an airline lost when carriers shed staff during the pandemic, operations have melted down across the industry.

Summer travel is peak travel. American Airlines knew it had a problem without very much margin in pilots this month so they turned off the ability for some of their pilots to trade trips even when they had someone ready to take their place.

At least that’s what they meant to do. They updated the trip trade system making it possible for pilots to drop all of their trips. My. God. As aviation watchdog JonNYC reports 2000 flight sequences and 37,000 hours of flying were dropped into ‘open time’:

Already today American Airlines has cancelled 2% of its flights and delayed 11% more despite going into the holiday weekend taking extreme precautions. They cancelled 3% of flights yesterday while nearly 30% of flights were delayed. It appears American is scrambling to fix this, arguing that the trips should simply be re-instated – something the pilots union says violates their contract. American can probably impose the fix, he most pilots can do is grieve it, and that’s going to cost the airline some money.

Coming on top of challenging operations already this is a problem, even if the trips are successfully re-assigned to their original pilots. Unhappy pilots are bad for a reliable operation (something American Airlines learned well enough a decade ago, when pilots contributed to the demise of the airline’s CEO and current management’s success in taking over the airline).

I’ve reached out to the airline for comment and will update if they provide a statement on how they plan to fix the issue.

Update 2:53 p.m. Eastern: American shares that the following was sent out to their pilots,

We have become aware of a technical issue with our Trip Trade with Open Time System (TTOT). We have temporarily suspended TTOT and our Trip Trade System (TTS) while we work to identify and address the issue. We understand these are important tools for our pilots and are working as quickly as possible. We will provide updates throughout the day as we learn more.

Update 4:27 p.m. Eastern: American Airlines offers,

Our pilot trip trading system experienced a technical issue. As a result of this technical glitch, certain trip trading transactions were able to be processed when it shouldn’t have been permitted. We already have restored the vast majority of the affected trips and do not anticipate any operational impact because of this issue.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. During the height of COVID, AA suspended certain direct flights between “regional” cities and “minor” hub cities. AA made these connecting flights — via its “major” hubs. Just over a year ago, the direct flights were restored. But, in January of this year, it reverted to connecting flights. At first, it was just January and February. Then, it was extended to March . . . and then June . . . and then October. Under AA’s current flight schedule, connecting flights on these routes will continue into early 2023.

    The practical effect is an otherwise one hour flight (+/-) becomes a five to six hour journey. During the height of COVID, fine. At this point, nope.

    If the route network IS the product, then I have less demand for that product. I’d have to believe that some level of revenue is shifting from AA to other carriers as a result.

  2. All pilot schedules have been put back to pre glitch. AA made a quick contract offer to the union after United signed a contract.

    The union has tried to negotiate for 3-4 years with AA stalling.

  3. I was stunned to complete an AA connecting international itinerary Friday with on time performance on all flights that enabled two too-short connections to come off smoothly. Immigration at DFW took 2 minutes and indeed traveling companions without GE beat me through since I had to walk to the other end of the immigration zone to get to my GE kiosk. I am not making this up. Just feeling really lucky.

  4. Companies need to start realizing that investing more money into IT and hiring top notch people will save them money in the long run. Non-tech people seem to think all programmers, computer security people, etc. are about the same in talent but there is a huge gulf in talent. And getting people on the cheap just costs you countless dollars. Consider IT as a productivity enhancing item and not a cost overhead.

    Or putting this in a non-tech manner, it takes a special manager to build up a strong team and can take quite some time, but one bad manager can destroy a team quickly and give it a reputation such that no one will come to that group.

    Sadly we have too many clueless people working in tech and in management.

  5. Those mid management clowns in Phoenix need to be replaced. Send operations back to DFW and focus on providing a top notch product to fliers. Work with your pilots and fligHt attendants,happier staff and customers result in a top notch airline.

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