How to keep American Airlines' scheduling glitch from delaying your holiday travel

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How to keep American Airlines' scheduling glitch from delaying your holiday travel

Thousands of American Airlines flights don't have pilots assigned during the holiday travel season due to technical glitch. The carrier's pilot scheduling system allowed too many pilots to take vacation days. The union representing pilots for the airline disclosed the failure Tuesday.

American Airlines said in a statement it was working to fix the problem. The airline expects to avoid any cancellations.

"We have reserve pilots to help cover flying in December, and we are paying pilots who pick up certain open trips 150% of their hourly rate – as much as we are allowed to pay them per the contract," the statement said.

The airline said it would work with the Allied Pilots Association, the union for the pilots, to "ensure we get customers to where they need to go over the holidays."

The flights without pilots include departures from big hubs like Miami, Dallas Fort-Worth, O'Hare in Chicago and LaGuardia Airport in New York, CNBC reported.

How travelers can deal

American Airlines said it expected to avoid any cancellations, but the union thus far hasn't gone along with its solution to pay pilots extra for picking up the flights. The union did not immediately respond to Policygenius' request for comment but it has filed a grievance, which is not a great sign. If things aren't solved, it could affect a lot of people. Airfarewatchdog expects many more people to fly rather than drive this holiday season compared to last year.

If you haven't booked your holiday travel yet (though you probably should have), consider an airline other than American, said Sarah Schlichter, senior editor for SmarterTravel, a travel website.

"If American is your only viable option, consider scheduling your flights a day or two earlier than you might otherwise just in case your initial flight is canceled and your plans are delayed," she said.

If you've already booked with American, look into a backup plan, whether through another airline or train or bus. If the American flight doesn't work out, knowing other options can help you act quickly, Schlichter said.

Finally, make sure you're signed up for flight status notifications so you know right away if anything changes, Schlichter said. Put the phone number for American Airlines in your contact list so you can get in touch quickly.

You may also want to consider travel insurance to cover any financial losses if your trip is delayed or canceled, including the cost of a nonrefundable airline ticket or accommodations because of a delay. It usually costs around 4% to 8% of the trip, but comparison shopping can help land a better deal.

Image: FatCamera