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American Airlines says 'only a few hundred' holiday season flights are unassigned

Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- American Airlines says that it is working to fill scheduled flights this holiday season, after a scheduling error allowed pilots to drop their scheduled flights.

The company acknowledged the issue on Wednesday, saying that they were working to resolve the unscheduled flights, and that pilots would be paid 150 percent of their hourly rate -- the maximum amount allowed in the company's contract -- to pick up those flights.

The company's system is meant to allow pilots to drop a trip or fly a different route if adequate coverage for that trip exists. Human error caused the program to show adequate coverage for a number of holiday season trips, when that coverage did not exist.

In a Thursday statement, the airline said "only a few hundred" out of 200,000 scheduled flights remain unassigned. "That number of open flights continues to decrease thanks to our pilots who are stepping up to the plate and picking up trips to ensure customers are taken care of."

American has not yet cancelled any flights for December, and believes it can avoid doing so.

The union that represents American's pilots, however, said Thursday that thousands of flights are still listed as unassigned. "We remain seriously concerned about the potential for significant schedule disruption for our passengers, pilots, and fellow employees during the critical holiday travel season," the Allied Pilots Association said.

The discrepancy in the figures presented by the airline and the union exists because American is expecting many of the flights to be picked up by the reserve pilots mentioned in the airline's statement. Reserve pilots, however, can only pick up flights 24 hours before departure, so the flights that they are eventually assigned to are currently unclaimed.

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