Cranky on the Web: American’s Overblown Pilot Problem, Holiday Travel Deals

American Airlines updates worried travelers after glitch left thousands of holiday flights without pilotsDallas Morning News (Paywall)
When there’s a hard paywall like on this site, I don’t usually post the link, but this seemed like my best chance to comment on the American pilot issue. In short, it’s a non-issue for travelers.

I can’t quite figure out why the union was trying to scare people into thinking their flights might be canceled, because that’s highly unlikely. It was a tech issue, and now American is paying a pretty penny to make sure it doesn’t impact travelers by paying pilots time and a half to pick up trips. You may have seen American say a couple days ago that it’s down to having only a few hundred flights that need pilots. That was bending the truth, at best, since it included expected coverage from reserve pilots who are on call. (In other words, the flights hadn’t all officially been assigned pilots yet, but there will be pilots available.) The sentiment was right, however, and yesterday there was a further update where American fluffed the union and now everyone is holding hands singing kumbaya. Again, nothing to worry about here.

In case you don’t have a DMN login, here’s my quote from the article.

“Everyone’s already freaking out,” said Brett Snyder, author of the airline industry blog Cranky Flier and president of air travel assistance company Cranky Concierge. “There are a lot of things to worry about and stress you out over the holidays. I wouldn’t let this be one of them.”

Snyder said American will be motivated to prevent the scheduling issues from disrupting any flights, especially after stating publicly Wednesday that it expects to avoid cancellations.

“This kind of thing can happen. They caught it and they’ve stopped it. Now they just have to fill in the blanks” in the schedule, he said. “We’ll be watching closely, but at this point I’m just not that concerned.”

(And yes, eagle-eyed readers, American did basically steal my quote about holiday stresses for that press release yesterday.)

Even procrastinators can find deals on holiday travelAssociated Press
My sentiments in this article are actually the opposite of the headline. It’s hard to find deals on holiday travel now because the airlines have done a much better job in recent years of paring back capacity during off peak times.

(Visited 2,020 times, 1 visits today)

Get Posts via Email When They Go Live or in a Weekly Digest

Leave a Reply

6 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
DaveyRonOlivertvmccabeJeff Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted

I think the reason it became news is because it sounds very like Europe’s Ryanair meltdown, which is still bubbling away.

David SF eastbay
David SF eastbay

The American thing was ‘scare’ tactics gain big headlines and increases ‘clicks’ on news websites, and a whoops everything is all right now doesn’t. Plus unions like to play big shot and make people think they own and run the airline.


It is beyond amazing to me to read about how the petulant pilot group at AA lives is a world of such constant negativity and search for conflict. This is the same union group that embraced Doug Parker and team in their merger to allow AA to emerge from bankruptcy with an industry leading contract. Then barely into the contract once UA and DL upped their pilot rates the caustic AA union went on the warpath and demanded an extension and raise although they were under contract. Parker and AA raised the hourly pilot rates to match UA and DL… Read more »


Yes, it sounds as though AA has calmed their APA reps down and is working hard with premium pay and reserve pilots to patch all the holes in the late December schedule. But, it does sound as though their reserve crew buffer to handle any major weather events ( like a snowstorm in Chicago ) has been substantially eroded by assigning reserve crews to scheduled flights now, Poor weather could hurt them much more than other carriers.


Oh yes, fly on Christmas Day. We did this last year and got good air fares many months in advance. Then on Christmas morning we drove to LAX and found the long-term parking lot full, so we ended up leaving the car in short-term parking for 2 weeks at $30/day…

But forget about Christmas now. I can’t even find good fares for Passover/Easter, and that’s 4 months out.


The amazing thing is that the pilot action has to have had the effect of driving passengers away from American Airlines at precisely the busiest time of the year. It was as if American’s pilots didn’t want full airplanes! One would have thought the appropriate action would have been to quietly work with American Airlines to deal with this problem. The outcome would have been the same but the bad publicity and the switching to United, Delta or Southwest would have been minimized. Before the pilots get too cocky with this stuff, they need to examine United Airlines’ pilots summer… Read more »