Short Call-Long Call

Hi Mentors!

My name is James, an aspiring airline pilot from California. I’ve learned a little bit about the industry but I look forward to being on here often with my questions (:

I had something come to mind regarding flying reserve-let me see if I can have this make sense. I know at some large US carriers you are assigned long or sort call for a specific month based on seniority. So, are short call pilots often waited out and used for really last minute stuff like a missed connection from other pilots, where long call people usually get base-to-base (regular) trips that are dropped and not picked up? Or do short call pilots also go first when it comes to being called to fly a regular trip?



You’re correct. Scheduling as a rule doesn’t like having open uncovered trips around. If there’s a known absence or open trip they can assign it long call, often the night before and they’re done with that trip. Short call is as you said for unexpected and short notice issues. Ideally if the airline is properly staffed Reserves shouldn’t get used very often.


Also, at some airlines (AA for example) have “short call” lines for the whole month.
Some airlines (SWA for example) everyone on reserve is considered a “short call” for the whole month
Some airlines ( Delta for example) all reserves are long call and just a couple of pilots will be notified a day prior that they are being assigned a 9hr short call window sometime during the next day.

Keep in mind that you can only be current in one type of aircraft at a fime in 121 ops, so if you are reserve in say SWA 737, you are immensely more useable on a daily basis due to the whole operation is available to you. If you are at a major with several types, you are only useable for that type of plane so your chances of getting used increase with the fleet size and type of flying they are doing with that type ie International or Domestic.


Generally speaking the long call reserves will be assigned trips the day before, while short call will be more days type trips. At my airline we have “field standby” reserves that are actually at the airport. This is only for four hours at a time and generally only assigned to a reserve pilot once or twice per month.


A couple versions of Reserve:

Long Call- 12hr notice (usually day prior).
Short Call- 2-3hr notice (depending on airline). Usually 2 shifts (am/pm).
Ready Reserve - Sitting at airport, usually 20min notice to get to gate. (4-8hr shifts). 1min prior to ending shift you could be called to fly and end up having a 14hr day.
Out of Base Reserve- Short Call or Ready at another Base. You stay in hotel or at the airport.

RR & OBR are being limited more & even slowly going away as Pilot Groups push for better Quality of Life. Every airline has tweaked versions of these types of Reserves lines, some better than others.

Hello and welcome to the forum! I can’t answer from the 121 side of things but I can offer some insight on 135 at the charter company I’m at… we have home standby, airport and maintenance standby.
-Home standby means all planes are crewed for the week but you’re the first one to be called if a crew member gets sick or for any other reason they need a fresh pilot. Bags are packed and you have to be at your base airport within two hours to be flown out to wherever the airplane is.
-Airport standby means you’re done with your trips for the day but not quite done with duty day. This doesn’t happen very often but sometimes dispatch will keep us at the FBO in case of a recovery or pop up trip if we’ve ended pretty early that day
-Maintenance standby: plane is broken so we can be at the hotel, FBO or even out around town as long as we can be back to the FBO if needed within 1 hour


thanks my issue has been fixed.

If a pilot gets sick mid trip, say from ORD to SFO (let’s just say ORD was his base). Would the airline pull someone from the SFO reserve to finish that trip? Or would they fly someone out from ORD?

Depends if the airline has a base in SFO. They could also post the remainder of the trip in hopes that someone that lives in SFO is interested in picking up some extra flying. Or they could also deadhead someone from another base.



In that case, a pilot getting sick mid trip, they would take the first available pilot they could find to cover the remainder of the trip with minimal disruption to the schedule. This could even include reassigning a pilot that is on another trip. If pilot A gets sick, and pilot B has a four hour sit time in SFO between flights, pilot B might find themselves on Pilot A’s trip, while pilot C gets called in to cover pilot B’s original trip.



thanks for the awesome information.