These “reserved” flight attendants prevent your flight from being canceled

At any air hub, chances are there’s a hidden room above the passenger hall or at the back of the terminal that’s full of old sofas, recliners, a landline phone, and flight attendants. This is however not the same location where crews will check in for their next flight mission. This is “the hot room”, where so-called reserve flight attendants wait for a last-minute assignment.

Most airlines require newly hired flight attendants to begin their careers on “reserve”. These crews do not bid for a flight schedule, but rather are reserved to assist the operation in the event of crew incidents such as sick calls, requests for days off from more experienced flight attendants and any other reason. for which the airline may need additional staff. Essentially, reserve flight attendants are used to save flights from short notice problems in an effort to keep the airline on time or avoid cancellations. If you recently had a flight delayed due to crew issues, as is the case with many disrupted flights this summer, standby flight attendants have likely been called in to save the day.

Typically, reservists are paid to stay home and wait for a phone call from the crew planning department informing them of their next flight assignment, which could require them to be at the airport within two to four hours. But sometimes the assignment of reserve air hostesses does not involve a flight at all. Instead, they are told to pack their bags for a trip to unknown destinations that could last up to six days, report to the airport, and wait four to six hours in the hot room for a possible assignment.

Some airlines call this “hot reserve”, others call it “ready reserve” or “airport reserve”, and flight attendants call it “airport appreciation”. In the hot room, crew members usually bicker over what to watch on TV or try to take a nap while staring at a wall-mounted landline phone hoping it will ring. Everyone hopes that when it rings, the crew planner on the other end will save them from trouble by assigning them a flight to a desired destination. “Hot spares” can replace colleagues who are stuck in traffic, who have a flat tire on the way to work, or who become unavailable due to other flight disruptions.

For example, I was recently sitting at Boston Logan International Airport and heard an announcement that a flight to New York was most likely going to be delayed because the flight attendants who were supposed to operate the flight were still flying in from Tampa. However, soon after, four flight attendants showed up and boarding quickly began. They were airport reserves. In this situation, they were not used to make the flight to New York, but simply to board the aircraft for late arriving crew members and prepare it for departure, thus minimizing the delay.

With the pandemic leaving many airlines short of crew, reserve flight attendants are becoming more important than ever. Most airlines hire new crew, but on average, flight attendant training programs last four to six weeks; therefore, most of the summer travel season will remain understaffed as we are approximately two months away from new recruits being trained, tested and eligible to fly.

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