I’m still a little confused about how bidding works. Are the flight schedules already created and you get to pick what you want, or can you customize your entire monthly schedule?
At the airlines various flights are grouped into “trips” which are of various lengths, but usually between one and four days. On a trip you will fly several flights to various destinations and on various airframes, but typically with the same Captain or Copilot.
When we bid we bid for the trips that we want. At some airlines those trips are already prearranged into “lines” and you bid on the line number you want. At other airlines the trips are all thrown into a pool and a computer constructs individual lines based on preferences that you enter. There are advantages to both preconstructed and preferred bidding methods.
Either way though, the flight are already assembled into trips by the company in advance of bidding.
We (like many airlines) have PBS (preferential bidding system). Its a computer system that builds you a line based on your preferences. You can put in virtually every parameter you can imagine (destination, days off, start/finish time etc) and the computer does it’s best to create a line that fits those preferences from the available trips. The caveat of course is everything is based on seniority so if you’re a junior pilot your by the time the computer gets to you there may not be many trips left that fit your preferences so you end up with the scraps. On a positive note many pilots are pretty lousy at bidding so if you put in some time and effort you may do better than you thought.
Thanks for the great info. Just to clarify, every month you will bid for trips that are a few days long. When you are bidding, you will pick multiple trips to fill up your month? Or the computer system just examines all of your preferences and gives you the best case scenario.
I also have another question. Say I am a Captain or FO in the middle of the seniority rankings. How difficult would it be to get 7 or more consecutive days off? Is it fairly easy to build a schedule in a way that would give me long periods off at the same time? This is considering I still plan on hitting 70-85 hours a month flying, so the rest of my month may be a little more busy.
Also, how do vacation days work at the majors. Are there any at all? I heard that you usually get more time off as you gain more seniority…
Computerized bidding literally has endless possibilities. Our PBS system allows you to put in as many (or as few) preferences as you like. Prior to the bid opening all the pairings (aka trips) are posted for the next month and you can actually put in for specific trips to fill your month or just put in your preferences. As I said the preferences are endless and contain every parameter you can think of (including who you want or don’t want to fly with). Keep in mind the computer will never build you a line with less than the companies min guarantee (in my case 75hrs) so if I only listed 2 trips it would make up the rest or repeat those trips (there’s also usually an “average” or base they go for. Usually in the mid-80s) if possible. But you are correct, the computer will do the best it can to meet your preferences but it can only do so based on the available pairings left. If you’re bottom seniority you’re just getting the leftovers vs the top who will get exactly what they want.
As far as blocks of days off that depends entirely on you airline and how well they’re staffed. I like to visit my family in NY often so I usually bid a block of 5-7days off and if as a newhire I had no problem getting that block (in fact I’ve never not). The problem when you’re junior is not getting the number of days, it’s the weekends. Again it depends on your airline and how they’re staffed but mid-seniority it shouldn’t be an issue. And yes obviously if your group your days off together the rest of the month will be very busy.
Again, as with most things vacations can vary from carrier to carrier based on the contracts. Most will give you a week first year or 2, then 2-3 weeks from year 2-5, then 3-4 whenever eventually maxing out at 4 weeks (or some variation of that). Neat thing we have at Hawaiian is we can break up our vacations to individual days. Now I’m on the A330 and there are no single day trips, by using 2 vacation days on a Fri and a Sun and another 2 for a Sat and a Mon then bidding my regular Mon-Fri off I can get 11 days off in a row and since I have 14 vacation days I can do that 3 times (plus one more with 9) turning my 2 weeks (14 days) into 42 (of course I’m only getting paid on the 14). You learn to get creative
This is great! So essentially, (as you all have mentioned before), with seniority I will be in control of the days. Very systematic way to scheduling. How long can a pilot call in sick before the flight?
If you’re sick you’re sick and shouldn’t fly. That said calling in sick at the very last minute is definitely frowned upon. The more notice you give the better (puts less pressure on Crew Scheduling to scramble). And as long as we’re on the subject while Crew Scheduling is governed by company rules/contract and are supposed to be complete objective nor play favorites keep in mind they are human. I can tell you from experience if you’re helpful and more importantly don’t make their jobs harder (ie, last minute sick call) when you need some consideration you’ll usually get it. Of course the opposite is true as well.
Generally pilots call in sick for a trip about a day or so before the trip starts. Generally I call in about twelve hours prior, but last month I woke up feeling like death one morning and called in about four hours prior.
Do you get a certain amount of call ins before they begin asking questions or you get a talking to?
Again it varies between carriers. There’s 2 things to consider. First off you have sick hours that accrue into your sick bank so that you still get paid if you call in sick. Once you use up you’re bank you can of course still call in sick but you’re not getting paid. At ExpressJet if you had a Dr’s note the sick call was excused if you didn’t it was noted. Three calls within a year and you got invited to the Chief Pilot’s office for a conversation. Guys it’s like anything else, there are people who walk the line, do their jobs well and keep their noses clean (aka Professionals), when they get sick (even if it’s often) don’t have a problem. Then there are the “problem children”. Always moaning about something, have miss trips and lateness’s, their sick banks are ALWAYS empty and they’ve called out for a personal day to go to their 17th grandparents funeral. Do they get fired? Usually not but they are really upset and confused why the Chief Pilot won’t write them a Letter of Recommendation and none of the Majors are calling. You reap what you sow my friends
We had a co-worker who used to come up with the most interesting excuses when calling in. I still don’t understand why they did as a call in is a call in no matter what the reason, but they seemed to have many family emergencies the day after posts on social media of a late nights out with friends. And then they wondered why they didn’t get scheudaled as often anymore…
Resurrecting this thread, rather than starting a new one…
How far in advance are you bidding/receiving your line for whatever bid period (i.e. how far in advance do you know your schedule so you can plan life events for your off time, like appointments or know you’ll likely be at whatever school event, etc.)?
Each airline is different. For us, bidding closes on the 9th. The schedule for the next month is published on the 18th.
The exact dates will vary from airline to airline. At Hawaiian the bid “opens” (when you can bid) around the 6th of the month prior and closes (when we get the results) on the 12th for Capts and the 16th for FO (so the FOs can see who they’re flying with and adjust ) as needed . We also bid for vacation in Sept the year prior so if there’s something coming up the next year you and you know you can try and get that.
Thanks, Tory! So not too far in advance, huh?
Thanks, Adam! That’s interesting about bidding for vacation as well. I hadn’t even consider that.
Well, it’s not that far in advance from the beginning of the next month, but as for the rest of the month, it’s far enough.
At my airline, we receive our schedules by the 17th of the month for the ensuing month.