Seniority and transition

Hi Mentors,
I just want to get some insight of how SENIORITY works in the airlines and also the mode of TRANSITION from one airplane to another.

  1. Assuming a pilot is hired at an Airline with about 1,000 pilots, he/she becomes the most Junior Pilot. Is he/she most Junior in the entire Airline or the base where he/she would be assigned?
  2. Is it automatic that the most Junior Pilot will be assigned to the smallest Airplane in the Fleet of the Airline?
  3. In terms of transition, is it done with reference from your Seniority from your Base or the Entire Airline?
  4. How is the Transition from a Smaller Airplanes to Wider Ones accomplished after gaining the Seniority? (Let’s say a Pilot flying B737 gains seniority to MOVE UP, if the next wider METAL in the Fleet is B747, is it his/her next destination or he/she could be thrown to B757 or B767?)

Thanks as I await your valuable answers.

Ok Issifu let’s talk senority.

Couple of things first and most important don’t equate or assume senority and aircraft size go together. But we’ll get back to that.

Let’s say you get hired today and yes you are the most jr pilot in the airline. That’s your System seniority. Now where it gets interesting is bases and aircraft because it’s actually the pilots who determine that. To simplify let’s just say there was a “flush bid” (a very rare occurrence where the company opens everything up and every pilot bids whatever they want and can move wherever). The most senior base and aircraft would become whichever base and aircraft the most senior pilots bid. The reason at many airlines the biggest plane is most senior is simply because traditionally bigger pays more and thas all. If that big airplane has less desirable routes it may not be the most senior. Qulaity of life is very important to many pilots. For example here at Hawaiian 717 (our smallest plane) pilots are home every night which makes it the most senior airplane here at the company despite the fact it pays less than the A330 or the 767. Now when I got hired I was assigned the 717 (a senior aircraft) because that’s where I was needed by the airline. You will be assigned where you’re needed. We only have 1 base but even if we had more I also could’ve been assigned a more senior base. How you get to move is when the company has opens a System Bid. Every now and again, based on need (retirements, new aircraft, etc) the company will have slots that need to be filled so they’ll have a bid and you can literally bid ANY slot you want, any base, any airplane, any seat (Capt or FO) and those slot’s will be filled based on seniority BUT there has to be a slot. If you’re senior to me SYSTEM wide and we both bid the same OPEN slot you’ll get it. BUT let’s say you were hired a year ago and are on the 737 and I was hired 6mos ago onto the 747. You’re senior to me but you cannot bump me out, so if there’s no new 747 slot even though you’re senior I get to stay on the senior aircraft and you’ll have to wait for an opening. Also let’s say you’re 737 IAH based and want to transition to the 747, maybe there’s a 747 slot but it’s only in DEN? Would you bid it? Do you want to commute, maybe? Maybe not?

The only time you’ll be “thrown” into something you don’t want is a) when you’re new and b) if you’re displaced. You’re displaced if for some reason there are less slots in your base or aircraft. Here at Hawaiian we’re phasing out the 767s. Every time we lose one we need less 767 pilots so they get displaced. Good thing is at many airlines if you’re displaced they’ll open a slot for you wherever you like so you still have some control.

Hope that makes sense?


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Thanks a lot for your wonderful insight.