Strictly Reserve?

Hey guys! Currently looking at some local flight schools here in the Vegas area, so I appreciate all your information in the meantime! I do have a question in regards to scheduling. Do any major airlines allow pilots to operate on a “reserve only” basis? I assume this would have its pros and cons, but I’d like some confirmation if it even exists or not. I’ve heard a couple of stories about pilots being able to upgrade to larger aircraft and move onto the longer routes sooner by using this method, but I may be totally confused. Thanks!


As a matter of fact, yes. There are currency requirements that need to be met which you’ll learn more about when you start training, but there’s nothing to prevent a pilot from bidding reserve. There’s a very senior FO at Horizon actually that does this. He’s a concert pianist. He bids long call reserve so he can build his gigs around his schedule.



As Tory said as pilot you can always bid reserve and if you look at my schedule you’ll see I do the most of the time. As far as upgrading, switching aircraft, longer routes or anything else that is entirely based on seniority and nothing else. What you may have heard is that some pilots will wait until they can hold a line to upgrade, change aircraft etc so as to avoid reserve and in that case, if you don’t mind being on reserve, you may bypass some other pilots. Again that’s only because they have chose not to, not because you’re on reserve. Make sense?


@Adam - Might be a dumb question, but would this work to your advantage in terms of moving up the pay scale (in the new aircraft type) more quickly than those who wait for a line? Even if you’re sitting reserve, you still get your bump each year, right?


Again, EVERYTING is based on SENIORITY. This is not a strategy for rapid advancement or some secret shortcut nobody knows about. Most pilots want the bigger airplane, want the pay bump etc etc and will take the upgrade and/or move ASAP. However, there are some pilots that are more about QOL or are commuters and they will delay a move till they’re guaranteed to be at a certain seniority level. That will permit pilots junior to them to move ahead BUT that’s those pilot’s good fortune to benefit from another pilot’s situation vs something those pilot’s did to advance themselves.


Interesting. Thanks.

@Adam @Chris

Makes perfect sense, and thank you! From what I gather, there’s a lot of give and take in this case, and the more senior pilots are sometimes willing to let the younger ones advance a couple steps so they don’t have to sacrifice their own QOL, correct me if I’m wrong. Those that are single, no kids, less personal commitments, etc…

My second question in this case: Now that they’ve been certified on the larger aircraft, 763 or 772 for instance, does this give them ANY kind of upper hand when the time comes for a more permanent position on the aircraft? Everything in regards to seniority I understand, but would they rather send a more senior pilot on the 738 for training when they have someone less senior already certified on the larger aircraft? Sorry to be a pain :grimacing:

A few things here.

“Senior” and “older” don’t always go together. I am both senior to and younger than many of the pilots I fly with, seniority is only based on time with the company, not age.

You are correct though in that sometimes more senior pilots bypass moving to larger equipment in favor of a higher quality of life. I did this when I elected to leave flying the 757 and 767 and return to the 737. I was very senior on the 737 and had excellent control over my schedule. When more senior pilots do elect to bypass a larger airplane, it isn’t to help anybody else out, it is strictly for their own reasons.

All positions on airplanes are “permanent”. Once a pilot has been trained on an airplane, it is theirs until they chose to leave it, or the company starts shrinking and issues displacements (which would go in reverse seniority order). When a new position on the airplane becomes available, it will be filled in seniority order of those who bid for it.



I know it might be counter intuitive but when I say EVERYTHING is based on SENIORITY that means EVERYTHING. What that means is regardless of cost, experience and yes often what makes sense, if there’s a slot to fill the most senior guy who wants it gets it. Period. Soooo let’s say you and me are both hired on the same day but I’m 1 single number lower (senior) than you. After 2 years you bid over to the 767 but I decide to stay on the 737. We both remain where we are for 15yrs and finally there’s 767 Capt slot open. You’re current and qualified on the 767, have 13yrs, thousands of hours on it, are the 767 FO Union Rep AND are the 767 Asst Chief Pilot vs me who can’t figure out how to move a 767 seat. Doesn’t matter one lick. I’m senior to you and if I want the upgrade it’s mine. That’s SENIORITY.



@Adam Well said, and this answers my question perfectly. I appreciate it :grin:

Holy cow. That reply sums up the seniority concept better than any other post I’ve ever read. Seniority literally is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.