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Thousands of American Airlines flights had no pilots scheduled after system glitch

The airline says a "vast majority" of the flights affected by the issue were restored.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Thousands of American Airlines flights were left without pilots through the end of July after a system glitch this weekend.

In a statement, the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline confirmed there was a technical issue with the company's "pilot trip trading system" that allowed pilots to drop their scheduled flights.

"As a result of this technical glitch, certain trip trading transactions were able to be processed when it shouldn't have been permitted," the statement read.

According to a report from ABC News, the American Airlines pilots' union said the issue affected at least 12,000 flights from July 3 through the end of the month.

In their statement, the airline said: "We already have restored the vast majority of the affected trips and do not anticipate any operational impact because of this issue."

American did not specify how many flights were affected by the glitch.

"What the airline is not allowed to do is to reinstate them without the pilots permission. Once they’re dropped, they’re dropped," said Steve Cosgrove. 

Cosgrove is an aviation expert and CEO of Dynamic Travel of Southlake.

He told WFAA the already overworked pilots have the option of picking up the flights that were dropped during the glitch.

“Having a 200% pay incentive or more, 300, 400, is going to encourage the pilots to pick the trips back up. They may be able to work things out contractually,” said Cosgrove.

Cosgrove said people shouldn’t panic and that this should be resolved in the next few days.

“It’s getting addressed from behind the scenes, professionally. It can go south at any point,” he said.

News of the issue came as airlines and airports deal with one of the busiest holiday weekends since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, along with staffing shortages affecting airlines across the U.S.

The Transportation Security Administration reported that nearly 2.5 million passengers were screened at security checkpoints throughout U.S. airports on Friday.

And, with a busy holiday travel weekend comes delays and cancellations.

According to FlightAware, a flight tracking site, there have been 4,824 delays and 640 cancellations that have affected U.S. airports, so far, on Saturday.

American Airlines itself on Saturday saw 100 canceled flights and 796 that were delayed as of 7 p.m., which led U.S.-based airlines.

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