This month my schedule is going to be a lot different than it has been in recent history. I am going to be on call or reserve as some airlines call it, for the whole month of June. Some carriers have a 24 hour on call system for many days in a row; some have a morning or night only on call. I will be able to be called out to work at a moment’s notice for 17 days this month. I do get days off of waiting by the phone but some of them are considered workable days and I can be flown into them and they will be slid making scheduling in my personal life nearly impossible this month.
I cannot complain though, as difficult an adjustment as it will seem to me and my life I have been lucky. I have held a schedule that has worked for me for at least the last 5 years of my decade long career. Many Flight attendants at many different airlines have not been that fortunate. I have friends who have been on call for over a decade and others almost 2 decades spent at the whim of the schedulers. I do not know if June is the forecast of things to come for me in my job or if it was an anomaly. I shall have to cross that bridge when I get to it.
I do not know if I will fly a lot this month but I will get paid an amount of hours whether I have flown them or not. It is not as much as I would normally make so that too will be an adjustment. Usually at the beginning of one’s career as a FA is when you would be on reserve at many air carriers, others cycle everyone through the experience every few month so no one person is on reserve for their entire year. I can only imagine how a newly hired Flight Attendant making starting wages at a minimum amount of paid hours can make ends meet. With cut backs at many airlines when you analyse the first few years pay you realise we don’t choose this job for the money or hope of exotic layovers we do it because we love it and cannot imagine doing anything else. Yes the time off is wonderful but there is a price to pay. Sometimes wonderful flights and destinations are doled out to those on call more often than not it is the long days with many flights and short layovers that make up their schedules.
I sit here waiting to be called and I think about when I should sleep as I am on call all day and night this week. Will I be going somewhere I have never been before or will the roll of the dice leave me with a very clean house from staying in waiting to be called? Will I be working harder than I have in years doing more flights in longer days than I would normally choose to fly? My fate is in the hands of the Crew Schedulers on the other end of the phone. I have to say being on call now is better than it would have been 20 years ago with only a pager to rely on should I wish to leave my home before it becomes a prison cell. If the pager went off you would have 15 minutes to find a pay phone to call scheduling. A decade prior to then one would have been tied to their rotary home phone without call waiting, forwarding or answering service. Times have definitely changed and I am not chained to my house but my cell phone feels like an extension of my hand as I check it often worried I will miss my call to work. Nights are long as checking my phone is frequent and I am sleeping lightly to hear it. Nights are also short if I get called out for early morning flights.
Tonight as I go to bed with dreams of exotic places I could go to tomorrow, I am uncertain if I will awake to the ring of my phone or the steams of the late morning sun. I am filled with hope that I will have great adventures this month to write about. I am certain that I will not be complaining about my future schedules if I get an actual schedule of flights in the next few months at least I will know what my month will bring.