NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of flights may be in jeopardy just in time for the holidays – all because of a computer glitch.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, the problem led to a staffing shortage which left American Airlines scrambling to find enough pilots to fly its planes.

Wouldn’t we all like to spend the holidays at home with family? But for a job like being a pilot, getting time off on Christmas can feel like winning the lottery.

Too many American Airlines pilots won the vacation lottery this year, which means many passengers could miss their own family time.

The Allied Pilots Association estimates 15,000 flights between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31 are at risk of being canceled because they do not have a full crew.

“It’s Christmas time,” said American Airlines flyer Nellie Ncube. “You’re meant to be with family.”

The pilots’ union told CBS News a glitch in the computer system American Airlines uses for scheduling failed to account for the holiday travel season. That means too many pilots were given time off.

“I guess that’s pretty poor planning,” one passenger told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern.

“That sounds like it’s going to be quite an issue for travelers trying to get home to their families,” another said.

“I have shivers thinking about it,” said Selvy Kumaran of Brooklyn. “That’s very scary.”

Kumaran is a college student in Brooklyn. She is supposed to fly home to Canada on Dec. 22.

“They definitely need to figure that out, because that’s terrifying,” Kumaran said.

“We’re going to have to get creative, to require a partnership to figure out how we get those more than 15,000 flights manned with captains and first officers,” said Capt. Dennis Tajer of the Allied Pilots Association. “It’s a heavy lift.”

American Airlines is not currently offering refunds, and said it is trying to avoid any cancellations – using reserve crews and paying time and a half for the open shifts.

“Send them a few Christmas presents maybe,” said American Airlines flyer Dominick Bussart.

“Airlines today have a way of resolving these kinds of things, and there’s always cooperation between airlines,” anther flyer said.

American Airlines said the time and a half pay is the most they can legally offer pilots.

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