Schedule flexibility. It’s a good thing; it’s a bad thing. It’s one of the benefits most highly touted about our job. It’s also what keeps us in front of a computer, on a day off, for hours and hours at a time.
When it comes to scheduling, flight attendants use a seniority system to request or bid their monthly schedule preferences. After schedules are awarded, you are then free to trade your trips and days off. Trades may be made either to another flight attendant or through an open flying system that lists all uncovered flying for the month. Trades are generally processed on a first come, first served basis, so when the trading begins, it’s a fast and furious process. It’s also a time when good computer skills, high-speed access, and fast reflexes matter a lot.
Although I was awarded a schedule for next month, one that reflected one of my highest preferences, I still couldn’t resist the lure of the trade. I wanted to see what else was out there. I wanted to take a perfectly good schedule and see if I could make it perfectly, well, uh, perfect.
After four hours in front of the computer, looking at trades, processing trades, and communicating with other flight attendants about possible trades, I have made a few minor changes to my perfectly good schedule. For the hours of time I took out of today’s plans, my schedule is only nominally better. To be honest, it’s neither better, nor worse. It’s merely different.
The lure of the trade is like any other compulsive behavior. It sucks you in with a promise of perfection, consumes too much time, and, at the end of the day, leaves you the worse for wear. But hey – the job is all about the flexibility.