The Flight Attendant Life Schedule

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It’s two in the afternoon, Pacific time. I’m in sunny San Jose, California. My hotel room is filled with sunlight and remnants of the past two day trip. I have my laptop spread out across my piles of clothing and I’m holding my planner, my iPhone and jotting down notes as I tackle the intimidating task of rearranging my schedule.

Welcome to the Flight Attendant Life …scheduling fiasco.

You may have noticed that flight attendants don’t exactly work 9-5 office hours. Our work schedule is based around the ever-changing needs of the industry, and if that means red-eye flights for a week or early morning shows, so be it. But for most airlines (and there are the exceptions), flight attendants get to bid for their work schedules. Everything is seniority-based, with the “good” trips going to the senior mamas and the crappy, low-paying trips with weird overnights handed down to the most junior lineholders. And then there are the new hire reserves, getting the meager crumbs that everyone else drops along the way.


Such is life.

But there is a silver lining, at least with my company and its computer-based schedule bidding program (known as Preferential Bidding System, or PBS for short). Once the lines are awarded, we have the option to drop trips, exchange pairings and trade things around. The system opens the floodgates at a certain time and the entire company rushes to swap their schedules … resulting in …

The Perfect Schedule!

I was in the middle of flying last night during the company’s magic trading hour, so I missed out on most of the good swaps. I opened my computer this morning to find an entire digital board of posted shifts, with other flight attendants begging each other to trade. But trading is tough when you have so many limitations. No duty days over 14 scheduled hours. At least 9 hours of rest between shifts. No more than 6 work days in a row. No more than 140 hours of work in a month, and no less than 62 hours. Commutable trips. Not too early of a showtime, not too late of a release. Ahh!

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But somehow, we figure it out. I work for the perfect sized company (in my opinion!). Only 80 flight attendants in my whole base, so most of us have each other on speed dial and on Facebook we are all up in each other’s business.

And so, here I am, texting, Facebooking, e-mailing and messaging my entire base, trying to figure out how I can get some days off for a very important adventure.

Whew. Let’s do this.

Happy schedule trading, friends!

As long as Celessa gets all her schedule trades in, she’s going to Tel Aviv with Kara Feb 1-7! Follow us on Instagram @TheEverydayJumpseater + @TheFALife to watch us as we navigate crazy schedules, busy flights and eventually jumpseat around the globe to meet up in Israel!

About the Author Celessa Lynn

writer // dreamer // adventurer // flight attendant

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