Being a flight attendant is very different than most other jobs in a lot of ways. After all, how many jobs have you jet-setting the world while looking your best and getting paid for it?
One aspect of being a flight attendant that many people wonder about is being on a reserve schedule. Common questions include what being on reserve is, how it works, and if you get paid while on reserve.
What is Reserve (An Overview)
Airlines keep a schedule of staff that is a back-up in case of someone is not able to work. The logistics that go into planning flights are complex so airlines can’t just cancel flights if a flight attendant is sick. This leads to having this ready made schedule of flight attendants that can work on short notice should the need arise.
This schedule is typically made a month in advance so you’ll know when you have to plan on potentially being called in to work. This makes it easier for your to know when you can potentially be off, but make sure to be available to work.
When you first become a flight attendant with an airline and have little seniority, you typically start out on this reserve list. As time goes by and you gain more experience and seniority, you’ll have the opportunity to become a regularly scheduled flight attendant.
How Long Should You Expect to be on Reserve?
While most new flight attendants do find themselves on reserve at the start of their careers, it usually doesn’t last too long and soon gives way to having the opportunity to choose more regularly scheduled shifts.
Most flight attendants who want to move on from being on reserve and have a more regular schedule can usually do so in 3-9 months depending on the needs of the airline they work for.
It’s also worth noting that while many new flight attendants see being on reserve as something to get “past” as soon as possible, there are great flight attendants with many years of experience who still work on reserve because they prefer it.
Are You Paid to be on Reserve?
Yes, typically flight attendants are paid while scheduled to be on reserve. The amount they are paid depends on the airline they work for and the contract they’ve agreed to.
Some airline will pay you a reduced set rate for the hours you’re on reserve. Others have a specific ratio to pay you. For example, they might pay you for 1 hour for every 3 you are on reserve.
This is actually pretty nice. There are many other jobs out there that require you to be available for work in case you’re needed but don’t pay you unless you get called in.
Advantages of Reserve
There are many benefits to being a on reserve as a flight attendant. In fact, there are long time experienced flight attendants who prefer it. Let’s take a look at some of these advantages:
- Hard to get trips – There are some destinations that are usually taken by more experienced flight attendants. This includes trips to exotic destinations, longer lay-overs, and places people would love to see.
- More time off – If you’re on reserve you’ll often not get called. This means you’ll have more time to yourself and essentially be on a partially paid stay-cation.
- Paid to be at home – In many cases, you can be on reserve and never actually get called. This means you’ll earn money just for staying at home. For some people this is a huge advantage that give you extra time at home with some pay.
- Try new positions – Getting called on a last minute flight means you might have a chance to fill a role you typically don’t. If you’re sick of only working the general cabin and would like a change of pace to first class, this might happen on reserve
Downsides of Reserve
As you can imagine, being on reserve is not ideal for everyone. It brings a lot of uncertainty and many flight attendants would prefer to have more of a regular job schedule instead of wondering when they will or won’t work.
Here are a few things that flight attendants typically don’t like about being on reserve:
- Uncertain schedule – Many people don’t like the uncertainty of not knowing when they work next. It does make it harder to plan things in your personal life and leaves you dropping everything when you do get called.
- Less pay if not called – If you are on reserve and find yourself not getting called you might not have to go into work, but you also are only being paid a fraction of what you usually would.
One other things to keep in mind is that you might be asked to be on ready reserve. This is like being on reserve except you get ready for work and go to the airport. This is to make sure there is staff ready to go in the case of a last minute emergency.
As mentioned above, a flight being short of cabin crew is a huge problem to airlines and passengers alike. Airlines want to prevent flights being delayed or cancelled as much as possible.
As you can see, being on reserve as a flight attendant has some advantages as well as some drawbacks. It’s an interesting spot to be in because it give you some great flexibility, but can be frustrating if you want something much more “normal”.
If you want to learn more about the specific policies for an airline you are hoping to work for, make sure to ask lots of questions during the interview stage. They will be able to give you specific insight into how things work at their airline. They’ll be able to give specifics on pay, odds of getting called, how long before a more permanent role is expected, and more.