Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time...

Everyone seems to know something about "Reserve" Flight Attendants:  they are the ones that sit around, waiting for the phone to ring, in hopes that Scheduling will have something warm and exotic in mind when they call.  Alas, as is so often the case, "real life" reserve is not quite so glamorous.  The Reserves at what was until recently the world's largest commercial airline will quickly set anyone straight who might have "visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads"!

In social media, reserves spend a fair amount of time lamenting their lot and chastising those of us (lineholders:  those who bid and hold a set schedule for the month) who take advantage of the loopholes in our contract that affect them the most detrimentally.  "Bumping", "rolling days", "airport alert", "vacation days", "out of base trades", etc. are ALL at the top of the Reserve's "naughty" list.  All are allowed and/or enforced under the terms of our Flight Attendant contract, yet all seem to benefit ONLY the lineholders.  So, Reserves can be understandably testy and upset when the seniority progression that moves each of us  "up the ladder" slows or stops, inexorably trapping them on reserve status for years and years.

When I came to work in the mid-80s, I sat reserve for NOT QUITE 2 weeks before being awarded a "move-up line" (a set schedule.)  Shortly after, I qualified as a Spanish and French speaker and have been "holding a line" (set schedule) ever since!  (For clarity's sake, Reserves in the Houston International base have as many as 17 years seniority and are STILL on reserve.)

I think it's difficult, if not impossible, for someone with such limited and dated experience to fully comprehend what life for a reserve in 2013-2014 is like.  (For example, when I came to work, our schedules were kept on a sheet of paper, updated with a pencil and an eraser.  Even then, things could get complex and entire crews were occasionally "lost"!)  I want to understand.  I want to experience firsthand some of the things that I read about that impact my flying colleagues who languish on reserve for years at a time.

And, it's CHRISTMAS!

So, I'm taking the plunge!  Tonight (Christmas Eve), I will be randomly drawing the employee number of a Reserve from my base who has indicated that they would like the opportunity to sample life as a 30-year lineholder.  For the month of February 2014, that person and I will "trade lines"; effectively, I will work his/her reserve schedule and s/he will work my "hard line" schedule.  The level of control that s/he will have for that month will no doubt seem as alien to him/her as the lack of control I will have will seem to me!  (My palms start to sweat whenever I think about it..)  But I have the strong sense that it's the right thing to do.  These people are truly the backbone of the inflight operation.  They endure so much uncertainty and decision making on a whim throughout the year/s.  It's only right that those of us who have it so good give a little something back...if only for one month.  (It also DRAMATICALLY increases their money-making potential.)

So, if you're looking for me during the month of February, you won't have to look very hard.  I'll be tethered to my telephone, dreaming of something warm and exotic, thinking how it sure SEEMED like a good idea!

As of 0854 on Christmas Eve...

And the winner is...

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