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When you first graduate from training and start your job as a flight attendant, you will more than likely start off on reserve.
What is reserve?
Reserve is when you don’t know what flights you are working in advance. You either wait at home (or in your crash pad if you don’t live in base) or at the airport until your airline calls you to work a flight. You work the flights people don’t show up for or call out of. You are on reserve until you can hold a line.
What is holding a line?
“Holding a line” is what we call it when you are no longer on reserve. A line is a set schedule where you see all of the flights you are working for the month in advance.
We get our schedules monthly. Each month we bid for the schedule we want. If we have enough seniority to hold a line, we will not be on reserve. To see what my schedule is like now that I’m off reserve, check out my blog posts:
There are two types of reserve days:
Airport Standby: this is where you wait at your base airport, usually for 4 to 8 hours. Most airlines will have a crew lounge you can wait in. You need to be in uniform and ready to go to the gate at any moment. Airport standbys are usually used for last minute call outs or if someone does not show up to work.
On-Call Reserve: This is where you wait at home or in your crash pad until you get called to go to the airport for work. You usually have a 2 to 3 hour call out time, which means you must be able to get to your base airport within 2 to 3 hours of being called. So if you don’t live where you are based, you will need to get a crash pad. If you have never heard of a crash pad, you can read all about it in my post: My Experience Living in a Flight Attendant Crash Pad
All airlines do reserve differently and how long you are on reserve depends on who you work for and where your base is. Different bases have different seniority. I have friends who work for other airlines and these are all the different types of reserve I have heard about:
-Reserve days one week a month (the rest of the month you have a set schedule)
-Reserve days every other month (one month you are on reserve, the next month you have a set schedule)
-Reserve days one month, every three months (one month you are on reserve, two months you have a set schedule)
-Reserve days the whole month (you are on reserve the whole month, every month, until you can hold a line)
There are also differences in the reserve “shifts”. Some airlines might have you on reserve 24 hours a day, while others give you certain hours that you can expect to be called.
This was my experience:
My company does reserve where you are on reserve the whole month, every month, until you can hold a line. In one month, I had 18 reserve days and 12 days off. The 12 days I had off, I could be anywhere I wanted – I was not working at all. The 18 reserve days were not all at once, they were usually 3 to 5 days at a time. The days I was on reserve, I had a shift. For On-Call reserve (where you wait at home) I had a 10 hour shift. This shift could vary but it was something like: 0400 – 1400 (4am to 2pm) or 1200 – 2200 (12pm to 10pm). On the days where I was On-Call, I could have a normal life until my shift started (and after my shift ended). For example, say my shift did not start until 12pm, I could be anywhere until 12pm. But once my shift started I had to make sure I was within 2 hours from the airport because if they called to tell me I had to work, I usually only had 2 hours to be at the gate. That means you should be packed, showered, and have your uniform ready to go just in case they call. Airport standby was a 6 hour shift. I had to be checked in at the airport at a certain time and I would just hangout in our crew lounge until I was called to work a flight. Airport standbys are used if someone doesn’t show up to work or if someone calls out with less than 2 hours before the report time, so you have to be ready to run to the gate at any moment. There were many days where I didn’t get called to work while I was on reserve. A lot of reserves will work very little, so if we did not work a certain amount, we still got paid a guaranteed amount of hours each month.
Once you get a line, it’s possible to be put back on reserve. I was on reserve for 8 months, then after 3 months of having a line I was put back on reserve for another 3 months. The next time I had my line, I never got put back on reserve.
It’s all about seniority. I am based in one of our least senior bases and a few classes after me didn’t get a line until 2 years seniority. One of my classmates is based in one of our most senior bases and he still is on reserve after over 3 years. So it can vary a lot.
Reserve can be frustrating, but you will get used to it and it won’t be so bad. Eventually you’ll have a line and the job will be much better! I tried to answer every question I could think of. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!