I’m curious to understand how you are assigned an aircraft. I know seniority plays a huge role into it but is it as straightforward of a timeline like 319 FO to 319 captain to 321 FO to 321 captain to 777 FO to 777 captain?
Same with regionals. E145 FO, E145 captain, E170 FO?
Seniority doesn’t just play a roll (huge or otherwise), it’s EVERYTHING. The only time you’ll ever be “assigned” an airplane (or base, or seat (Capt or FO) is when you’re hired. Even then if there are multiple types (or bases) available when you’re hired you’ll bid on them and they will be awarded based on (you guessed it) SENIORITY. In most cases you’ll be assigned (or awarded) the most junior aircraft which usually means the smallest which is usually the plane that pays the least. After that the path is yours to choose.
Here’s what I mean. Using your example you get hired at Friendly Air and are immediately assigned (as it’s the only slot available) 319FO DFW base (keep in mind at most airlines you’ll be “seatlocked” on your initial airplane but let’s forget that for now). Ok some time passes and a bid comes out. You can literally bid anything you want all the way up to 777Capt (whether you get it or not depends entirely on your seniority). Also you really don’t want to commute to DFW anymore and would rather be based near your home in SEA which is a more senior base. With that in mind, based on your seniority there’s a 319FO slot available in SEA you could hold, a 321FO slot in DFW you still need to commute to but pays more, and the airline just opened a new base in PEK (which no one is excited about) but if you go there you can hold 330 Capt. The choice you make is entirely based on YOUR priorities. Is it to stop commuting? Is it to fly a bigger plane and make more? Or is it to upgrade but be far away from home? For some this is an easy decision, for others it isn’t. Many will bypass a airplane or upgrade until it works for them lifestyle wise which is fine. Others its all about advancing as quickly as possible which is also fine. Neither is right or wrong, these are simply personal decisions. Make sense?
Thank you so much for this information! There seems to be a lot of personal choice of which aircraft, base, etc you get IF you have the seniority to do so.
I’m roughly 10 years away from being at the majors (I begin training in a month). But I always like to learn as much as I can even if it doesn’t effect me for awhile. Although it’ll effect me at the regionals in just a couple years!
Once you get a class date at a regional, they will either assign you to an airframe based on need or you bid within your new hire class. Cadets will always have the highest seniority in the class, after that to sort the rest of the class they may use age or social security number. From then on, it’s up to you to decide with your seniority if you want to move airframes or seats.
While everyone does have personal preferences, it is worth noting that if your ultimate goal is to reach the majors, most would agree that bidding for upgrade at your first opportunity in order to build turbine PIC time as quickly as possible is a wise decision.
This approach, however, could lend itself to a not so comfortable quality of life if upgrading means accepting an aircraft, base and/or schedule that you aren’t necessarily excited about. But if you are able and willing to sacrifice some quality of life for a quicker route to the majors it’s worth considering.
That’s really good to know. I was very interested in applying for the cadet program once I finish training. Based on what I’ve read and now what you said, it seems to give you an advantage if you’re able to get in.
Makes sense. So what you mean is that once I’m a FO in a regional, once 2 years or so goes by to immediately bid for a captain position at the regional to gain those hours as quickly as possible?
That’s the idea. When I was at a regional, the major airlines were still requiring a minimum of 1000 hours of Captain time.
Now that the shortage is in full swing, I have friends that have received offers from United and Delta with less than 100 hours as Captain.
Generally speaking the sooner you can upgrade the quicker you can move on.
Adam are these openings/bids ongoing? (A notice pops up everytime a captain retires?) Or is it something like a set schedule, (every 15th of the month, all the new openings show)?
It varies from airline to airline. Some have scheduled bids throughout the year, some have “triggers” based on staffing (ie, if Reserve coverage goes below a certain amount), some simply when there’s a need. Regardless, in most cases they happen pretty regularly.
We basically have “vacancy bids” about every two months during periods of growth. During stagnant periods, it is only once or twice per year.