Uh-oh, if you planned a meeting or event, or just booked a flight home for the holidays, we might have some very upsetting news for you. Reports began flooding out midday on November 29 of a major technical mishap at American Airlines. And we mean major. This glitch could potentially cancel up to 15,000 flights. Not only could this have major repercussions, this also comes at the busiest and most stressful times of the year.
So what happened exactly? Essentially, more pilots were granted time off between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31 than should have been, resulting in a shortage of pilots, and therefore flights.
“The airline is a 24/7 op,” union spokesman Dennis Tajer told CNBC. “The system went from responsibly scheduling everybody to becoming Santa Claus to everyone. The computer said, ‘Hey y’all. You want the days off? You got it.’ ”
What can be done to resolve this issue? It certainly won’t be an easy fix, but it seems that American Airlines is putting in the effort, or more accurately cash, to amend the lapse.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller told CNBC, “We have reserve pilots to help cover flying in December, and we are paying pilots who pick up certain open trips 150 percent of their hourly rate — as much as we are allowed to pay them per the contract,” he told the network. “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.”
Alas the plot thickens. In response to this statement, the union posted a warning on its website, declaring that, “management unilaterally created their solution in violation of the contract, neither APA nor the contract can guarantee the promised payment of the premium being offered.”
So we’re pretty much in the dark about whether or not Christmas is getting cancelled. Before you panic, remember that there’s always a solution. Here are some tips you can share with your attendees or use yourself if mass cancellations are the verdict.
1. Do Your Homework
OK, this isn’t exactly a solution but it’s worth noting. Research the rules and laws about what the airline owes you. If your long-anticipated flight gets cancelled, you certainly deserve every penny of compensation. If you can’t get through on the phone, you’d be surprised by how often airlines take notice on social media.
2. Get Friendly with Other Airlines NOW
If you were affected by the cancellation, there’s no time to wait. Many others are in the same boat right now and evaluating their options just like you. You’ve got to be quick if you want an edge.
“Right now, if you already have tickets on American for the period between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31 and want to guarantee having a flight, your only recourse may be to buy a ticket on another airline and pay any cancellation fee charged by American,” says Veronica Stoddart, former travel editor of USA TODAY and award-winning travel journalist and content consultant.
“That’s because airlines usually won’t allow you to cancel or change your itinerary for free until they actually start canceling or delaying flights. Otherwise, your best bet would be to wait for American to fix the problem — which it says it will. But if your flight does get cancelled, American will likely waive its change and cancellation fees and you’ll have to scramble to re-book on another American flight or on another airline.”
Use any miles, memberships or rewards that you, or a family member, have with other airlines. In fact, depending on the conditions, consider enrolling in a new one as soon as you find out. Instead of booking online, get in touch with a representative. Humanizing your story will definitely help you out more than an automated booking price.
3. Alternative Modes of Transport
Planes might be the easiest way to get to your destination, but if your flight’s domestic there’s pretty much always an alternative. Some may require additional money, time and organization—but it’s all about what you’re willing to compromise. Each situation is different. If a train or bus isn’t feasible, consider driving. No car? Look into rentals. You can also carpool on routes with friends or family in the area. The routes don’t have to be identical either. They might just need to get you to the right train station.
4. Rethink and Re-plan
So your festive event might be too difficult to attend. It doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Although it might not look how you envisioned it, you might be able to push your plans to a later date. If you can get all parties to agree then who knows, maybe Christmas in January will be your favorite new tradition.