Flying reserve vs. holding a line

I was wondering what life is like to fly reserve, specifically if you end up flying when would I end up back home and would I have certain days of the week when I am not on call.


On reserve you will have a set schedule of 17-19 days of call. These are days that you need to be available to fly with just a few hours of notice. You might fly on those days, you might not.



Yes you have scheduled days when you’re on call and others when you’re off.


Do I get to choose which days I get off and am I on call 24h straight? Also, when will I end up back at my home base if I end up flying? If the airline doesn’t send me back can I take a commercial flight back for free?

You can bid which days off you would like to be on call, but there is no guarantee that you will get the days you want. Yes, generally call is 24 hours straight. You will get back to your home base when you finish your flight assignment. The airline is required to return you to your home base. If you are not actively flying the airplane, you will “deadhead” in the back as a passenger.

If I don’t get the days that I want is it realistic to switch with another pilot?


As Chris said you can bid for the days you want. Everything at the airlines is based on seniority. The more seniority you get the better your chances of getting what you want but in most cases when pilots gain seniority the first thing they do is get off reserve and get a bid line.

Not sure what Chris is referring to but legally you cannot be on call for more than 14hrs and many airlines restrict RAP (Reserve Availability Period) to 12.

Finally most companies will allow you to swap Reserve days with another company but some do not.


No, it is not. You seem very concerned with days off. I have to tell you, this is a job that involves working holidays, weekends, etc.

At UAL we are on 24 hour reserve, with twelve hours to report from when one is called. That is unless converted to short call, which has the restrictions you mentioned.

Are there any perks to short call?

what do you mean another company

Yes, you learn how fast you can actually get showered, shaved, dressed and from your house to the airport :slight_smile:

I mean different companies (airlines) have different work rules. Some allow you to trade reserve days and others do not.


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How often do you get a new schedule, once a month?

yes, once a month.

If you bid for a line are the routes premade and you bid for which route you want or do you put in preferences and the computer calculates a route for each pilot?


You can bid for just about anything. Routes, destinations, days off, crew, time of day. Pretty much anything you can think of.



Depends on what scheduling system the airline uses. My airline currently uses PBS (preferential bidding system).


Yes and no. If you live in base short call is not a bad thing. At American we have both short and long call which is awarded in the monthly bid. You generally fly less on short call as they are the last line of defense for last minute sick calls, so scheduling will use everyone the can contractually use before calling a short call reserve out to fly.

If your airline uses PBS the pairings are prebuilt, but your line will be constructed in the bid process. If your airline uses traditional line bidding then the pairings and lines are built by crew planning, and you will bid the lines they have constructed. PBS is far better for quality of life.