When I was new at Horizon, I was on reserve for about a year and a half. I knew it'd be significantly shorter at NewCo, but figured I'd probably do at least one month. Actually, it turned out to be only two weeks, because I got a regular line for January. That's encouraging but not particularly noteworthy. Here's the crazy part: it's a Monday through Thursday, weekends-off line. In 3.5 years at Horizon, I was never once able to hold that kind of line.
It turns out to have been a case of fortunate timing for me and rather unfortunate timing for several pilots senior to me. I went to Montreal a week earlier than the rest of my class, finished training more quickly than expected, didn't wait horribly long for IOE, and was then assigned a very efficient IOE schedule that went smoothly so I knocked it all out in one five-day stretch. The end result was that I (and my sim partner) finished IOE just in time to be eligible to bid for January. Meanwhile, everyone else in my newhire class (all senior to me) was one week or more behind me in the training cycle. Those one week senior to me, who I joined in Montreal, had delayed checkrides due to check airman availability issues. Several pilots in the class two weeks before me had their IOE delayed due to flight cancellations, sick check airmen, and other issues. The end result was that there were no less than eleven pilots senior to me who were ineligible to bid at the bid close, although they'll all be done with IOE before January. They'll get assigned to reserve, where they'll end up covering all the flying contained in the junior lines that went unawarded.
That alone does not explain why I could hold a normally coveted M-Th schedule, since I still had 16 FOs bidding senior to me. The other piece of the puzzle is that it's a CDO line, which many pilots bid away from. An explanation is in order. CDO stands for Continuous Duty Overnight. They're also known as hi-speeds, stand-ups, or a few unprintable names. The idea is that to maximize aircraft utilization without overnighting multiple crews, the same crew will operate the late flight into an outstation and the early flight back to the hub. On a CDO, you're technically on duty all night, and therefore aren't bound to the usual eight or nine hours of minimum rest. There's anywhere between three and eight hours between your last PM flight and first AM flight. Most airlines provide hotel rooms for your admittedly short nap, although a few regionals have made their crews sleep on board the aircraft during shorter CDOs (Mesa famously provided crews with plywood boards to make beds out of seat rows).
A lot of pilots dislike CDOs. They screw up your sleep schedule, and if you have family or other obligations that prevent you from actually resting during your daytime rest period, a few straight nights of CDOs will really fatigue a pilot. A few regional airlines with weak contracts (or non-union carriers) have CDO trips that are arguably unsafe, with multiple legs before or after the short overnight and duty times approaching the legal limit (16 hours). Another common gripe are lines that mix normal trips with CDO trips, which really screws with circadian rhythms and makes it hard to establish a good sleep schedule.
NewCo's contract, while weak in many areas, contains pretty good restrictions on CDO scheduling practices. Each CDO trip may contain no more than 12 hours of duty and five hours of block time, may only contain two flights (one out, one back), must have at least four hours of "rest", and each crewmember must be provided a hotel room. CDOs cannot be sprinkled throughout regular lines but must be grouped into "pure CDO" lines like the one I bid, and these have a number of restrictions such as no more than three consecutive CDOs and every stretch of two or three consecutive CDOs must be followed by at least two days off. That's part of what makes a CDO line palatable for me. The other thing is that I'm a very flexible sleeper, and I do well sleeping a few hours at night and then napping for a few hours in the daytime.
My schedule for most of the month is Saskatoon CDOs on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. I show up at Minneapolis at about 8:30am those nights and I'm released around 9:00am the next morning. I get about 5 hours of rest in Saskatoon - if everything goes right. The last few nights we were delayed by over an hour getting out of Minneapolis, making that nap in Saskatoon painfully short. I'm getting a few hours of sleep in the afternoons, though, so I'm pretty well rested the following evening.
In February I'll have those eleven FOs bidding senior to me, but there are six senior to them that are upgrading so I should only move down five numbers. In the meantime the amount of flying and number of normal lines will continue to increase so hopefully my luck in bidding holds for another month. I'm enjoying it while I can, because I'm sure I'll be on reserve for a while after I upgrade, especially when they open Detroit and Memphis bases and start sending airplanes there.