I've been at my company for more than three years, and advancement has been pretty slow. I'm sitting about halfway up the list of Portland based Megawhacker First Officers. The lengthy upgrade time causes the most angst among the FOs that hope to fly for a major someday, but in the meantime low seniority also means relatively little control over my schedule. By the time that pilots senior to me have bid, all that's typically left over for me to choose between are regular lines with crappy trips and no weekends off, or else reserve. Earlier this year I bid several months of reserve to get weekends off. I flew very little on reserve, which was hard on the checkbook and a little boring, so I reluctantly went back to bidding a regular line. To my suprise, the last two bids have turned out very well for me.
Last month I got a junior line - my twenty first choice, in fact! The trips weren't that great - lots of Reno involved, egh - and they covered every single weekend. In the past, I've had little choice but to fly what I'm assigned, as trip trades require an unusually high level of reserve staffing at my airline. These days, however, we're extremely "fat" on Megawhacker FOs, allowing me to drop all my assigned trips and build myself a really decent line from the unassigned ("open time") trips. In the three years I've been here, this is actually the first time my trip trade requests were granted on the first try. It's nice to be well staffed for once!
The line that I built had all weekends off but one, with a pretty good mix of trips including an entire week of daytrips that showed at 6am and ended at 4pm. It was almost like being a normal person with a real job - right down to creeping home in rush hour traffic! One of those days ended up getting cancelled and several of the legs on other days were cancelled, which hurt my pay by putting me back down to minimum guarantee (92 hours). Unfortunately, our contract does not provide cancellation pay, one of its weaker points.
I was prepared to do the same drop-and-add routine this bid but ended up not having to. In a rather unlikely turnabout from last bid, I got my first choice - a very senior line with all Fridays and weekends off and pretty good trips. One of the very senior FOs originally picked this line as his #1 choice, which I think discouraged others from bidding it, but he changed his mind at the last minute. It screwed up everyone else's bidding, or at least those who bid based upon what lines were "taken." I usually just bid what I like regardless of whether it seems taken, and it worked out for me this time.
Being summer, I normally wouldn't even be trying to get weekends off, but Dawn is planning on teaching summer school this summer so I'm still bidding around her schedule. It does appear that we'll be well staffed for a while so I'll continue to enjoy flexibility in reworking my schedule to fit my needs. That makes being junior a lot more bearable.