Flight Attendant Life: Reserve Pairing

That Girl Named Carol
3 min readAug 12, 2022

Reserve AKA OnCall — something that flight attendants know all too well.

Welcome to my reserve pairing. Today is day 1/5.

When I got hired at my airline we had an equity bidding system and we held one block of reserve for 4 days each month. The most junior flight attendants got called out first and it was alright. I worked all the time. I often listed for them to call me first OR pre assign me a pairing so I could just get it over with. It was a grande time. I really liked that system.

Now my airline has gone to senority bidding and we hold more than one block of reserve each month. Now we can hold as many as crew planning sees fit which often means 2 blocks of 5 days of reserve back to back. In total it is 10 days of oncall shifts. Flight attedendants get called out from the most senior down.

Today is day 1/5 of morning reserve. My call out window started at 3am — it goes until 3pm. My anxiety doesn’t let me do that good of a job being able to be productive at activities outside the house. So it is low key like I am on house arrest. I just pace around my house doing things like writing this post, or cleaning or meal prepping — sometimes in the winter that means crocheting.

12:24 pm — I got a call from crew scheduling with an offer for a full 5 day pairing. An offer means there is someone more junior to me and I can have the option if I want to take the pairing or if I want to decline it. I declined before he even told me what kind of flying was involved for this pairing offer. I have just decided today I will be sitting at home until 3 pm. Then I will be sitting around because it is too hot outside and I will whine about the heat and not use my AC because struggling times.

2:59pm — No other calls! I am free to enjoy the rest of the day. My oncall window starts again at 3am. Even if I wanted to drink I need to assume I could get called first thing and I must follow the rules for drinking at work.

I am free for the day.

While often I will take a pairing no matter what it is. Today I just didn’t feel like it. I think I will likely get called for some one day flying for the remaining days of this reserve block …which could be good, might be awful but worth the gamble.

While I am here — doing nothing — I think about how I really feel about flying, I also think about things like — how long am I willing to live in a world where half my month is so unknown? How long am I willing to feel like a puppet? Will flying get better anytime soon? When is the time to pull the plug?

For 12 hours today I slept then I sat on my couch reading, drinking my iced coffee and wondering what exactly I should be doing. I practiced my Spanish and my French on Duolingo and then I talked on the phone — thought about fall things and honestly just had a lazy day.

I got paid for 4 hours today for sitting oncall for 12 hours.

Lets see where I end up tomorrow.

That Girl Named Carol

Retired barista and globe trottin’ English teacher turned (furloughed) flight attendant who is currently tryna live the dream she created on her vision board.