How to Become a Flight Attendant: Reserve


I'm going on about three months now being a working flight attendant! My life and my job are a bit unusual, so feel free to first check out the other sections in this series that might answer any questions you may have about my job or my lifestyle that goes along with it. This is the third installment of my "How to Become a Flight Attendant" series, covering the reserve process.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is regarding my schedule. I'm a newer flight attendant, so I don't have the seniority necessary to receive a set schedule. That's called a "line". Line holders know their flights every month, and have the ability to swap, drop and trade with other flight attendants. Having a line makes your life way easier, because then you have a say in where you go, when and also what you work.

As for me, that's a dream of the distant future! I'm a reserve flight attendant. This means that I'm on call for a certain amount of set days per month. The blocks of days I'm on call, I need to keep my suitcase with me wherever I go. If I get called for a trip, I could get notice as little as 2 hours ahead of time!

In that short amount of time, I need to get myself to the airport. That's why it's a good idea to always stay packed and ready! I feel a bit silly sometimes when I'm sitting around in full makeup and hair in my pajamas, but it's all part of the job!


Another part of being on airport standby is that you could be assigned a five hour shift just to sit at the airport. That's right... you sit. In that time, you could be asked to pre-board (you become part of the crew if someone is late showing up due to a connecting flight or traffic). You help customers board and you can get off your shift if the other person arrives!

You may be assigned to a trip if your airline needs you, or they may shuttle you to another airport if they are understaffed there. We reserves are the backup, so if we use all our base's reserves for that day, we could steal backups (other employees) from another base to help us out.

You can end up with some bad trips nobody else wanted that are leftover, or you can get great trips that senior flight attendants are usually called out for!

I recently spent 24 hours in San Jose, Costa Rica! This life of a flight attendant has been a crazy one, but the experiences I've had make everything worth it.

I'd love to hear all about your dream job in the comments! Also please don't hesitate to ask any clarifying questions about the reserve process.


This is part of the mini series "How to Become a Flight Attendant" written by Emma Crane, a recently crowned flight attendant! The perfect get started kit for future flight attendants, Emma aims to ease a daunting process. Stay tuned for future posts!




Emma is a part-time contributor at, bringing her love for travel and exploration. Since graduating from The Evergreen State College (Washington) in 2013 and living in London, England for almost 1.5 years, she is now a flight attendant with a major airline. In her spare time, she enjoys embroidery, travel + breakfast food.