I’ve been a flight attendant on reserve for a month now. It honestly feels like its been ages. I can’t believe I’m a baby flight attendant with only a few trips under my black, uniform-compliant belt. But so far, I LOVE IT! Being a flight attendant is so exciting and adventurous and no two days are the same.
When you first start working at an airline, you start off on reserve, which basically means you’re on call most of the month. This means I sit around at home by my phone with my suitcase all packed and my uniform ready to be thrown on in case they call me with a last-minute trip because someone got sick or had to no-show. Reserve life is wildly exciting. I wake up at 4:00am and check in on the crew site and then watch TV shows and read books and deep-clean my bathroom until 4:00pm. I can’t really go anywhere in my car because I need to be able to get to the airport in 90 minutes if they call me.
There’s another type of reserve called ready reserve where you’re actually on call at the airport, so they can call you in super last-minute. Ready reserve is much more time-consuming since you have to sit around in the crew room at the airport in uniform, trying to keep yourself entertained.
I’ve done both versions of reserve and they’re both pretty boring. I never get called for a trip on the spot while on reserve. Crew scheduling does like to put random trips in my schedule one or two days in advance, which is when I get to fly.
My first solo trip after my test ride was actually with my roommate from training, who also got put in the same base as me. We were both really excited to be working with someone familiar. We flew a 2-day trip with an overnight in Detroit. Mid-trip I got another notification from scheduling that I had another 2-day trip after this one ended with an overnight in Philly. So my life has become much like this: my schedule changes on a whim and one night I’m in one city, the next night I’m in another.
Probably my most exciting trip was when I had a 3-day trip that was strung together with various crew. I worked with one crew going around to LaGuardia and Hartford with an overnight in Pittsburgh. Then I swapped to another crew and worked legs to Charleston and overnighted in Columbus. It was freezing cold in all the cities I spent the night. In fact, when we reported to the airport in Columbus at 5am that morning, the weather conditions were slushy and icy. Our fight still boarded, however, and our plane was filled and ready to take off for Washington Dulles when our captain announced that the weather was unfavorable in Dulles and they had shut down the runways. We were going to have to wait a half hour. The half hour turned into an hour and our passengers started getting agitated, asking us about their missed connections in Dulles. Meanwhile our crew crowded around the galley up front and wondered what was going to happen to our flight. The gate agent eventually deplaned all the passengers and sent them back to the gate, and shortly after we discovered our flight had been canceled. We were a little frustrated but I was relieved we didn’t have to tell all those angry passengers at the gate.
What’s funny is I was supposed be off after I flew back to Dulles that morning, while the rest of my crew would do a turn in Atlanta (a round trip flight). So much for that now. We ended up waiting around a few hours on our empty aircraft and then flew the empty plane straight to Atlanta to do the turn. I ended up going to Atlanta anyway. You never really know what your day is going to be like as a member of the flight crew, especially with winter conditions. But all you can do is go with the flow and go where they send you. It kind of makes for lots of new adventures anyway.
One of the cons of working in the airline industry is that you’re never home for the holidays. You’re busy getting everyone else home. I was scheduled to spend Christmas weekend on reserve at home while my family went to Detroit. But on Friday morning my weekend completely changed and I got sent on a 3-day trip, overnighting in Minneapolis and Ottawa, Canada. I worked my first international trip to Canada and also got to overnight there (although unfortunately it was too short to do anything in the city). Our crew returned to Dulles on Christmas afternoon and I made it to my aunt’s house to spend Christmas with her. Not a bad first year on this job, I’d say.
The reserve life when I’m actually on reserve and sitting at the airport has been fairly predictable. I know I can count on being called. I’ve barely sat through one full shift of home reserve without being called to go somewhere. Just this past week I woke up at 4:00am to clock in for my regular reserve and found out it had been changed to ready reserve at 7:00am. I was in the car driving through the pouring rain when crew scheduling called me and told me I had a turnaround to Ottawa when I arrived! I flew to Ottawa, opened the cabin door to a gust of snow, and flew back to Washington Dulles within an hour. What a morning!
This new life is just full of surprises. I sometimes go to four different cities before noon and it feels like its been a full day. I sometimes forget what day it is or which airport we’re going to. Eating bananas and snack mixes in the plane galleys or heating up instant oatmeal in my hotel room has become the norm. Oftentimes I wake up at 4:00am and wonder why that has to be a thing. But then I get to see the sunrise from above 10,000 feet and I realize everything about my job is pretty great.