American Airlines has resolved its 15,000-flight fiasco

American Airlines passengers are set to have pilots in December for the holidays. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Over the weekend, American Airlines came to an agreement with the pilots’ union to man the approximate 15,000 flights between Dec.17 and 31 that had been without pilots.

A clerical error had mistakenly labeled flights during the critical holiday time period lower-priority, which allowed pilots to choose family over flying and drop those flights. Those flights are typically un-droppable.

“We’ve reached an agreement that we believe will ensure that our customers’ holiday travel plans are not disrupted while also recognizing our pilots’ extra efforts to help resolve this challenge,” said a joint press release between American Airlines and the Allied Pilots Association.

The terms of the agreement state that the pilots, who were offered “premium pay” of 150% of their rates, will now be paid 200% for flights in the critical holiday period. To make more pilots eligible for the rate hike, all regular pilots’ hours will be considered at a level high enough to qualify them for double pay.

The pay increases are expected to be enough to convince pilots to take the flights.

As one veteran American Airlines pilot told Yahoo Finance, “Double, I’d probably go do that.”

Before the resolution, there was confusion as travelers wondered whether they were going to be able to fly during the holidays. The airline said the flights had pilots, leaving the pilots confused as they looked into the scheduling system and saw a mass of unmanned flights planned. The airline clarified that it had meant reserve pilots, a move that would have stretched American Airlines’ reserve system, which is typically meant for sick pilots or inclement weather emergencies.

While costly for the airline, the agreement represents a solution that is likely to please passengers who can rest assured that their holiday flights will likely be manned, and that extra pilots will still be available, just in case another snafu occurs.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann. Confidential tip line: FinanceTips[at]oath[.com].

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