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When you wish upon a flight

Cabin Crew Member

We have a new planning system! Starting with our November schedules the new planning system has superseded the Preferential Bidding System that we’ve had for ten years.

Everyone was getting very nervous around the 23rd of October, anxious to check their November schedules created by the new planning system.

“Hysteria” erupted when the schedules were not published on the normal roster publishing date, the 23rd, but on the 25th instead. The first roster publication out of the new planning system took two days longer until everything was finished. I’m not making fun of my own kind; I am one of the impatient schedule addicts who keep checking every three minutes on their smartphones in the supermarket queue or on the tram to see if that darn next month’s schedule is online yet. It’s a huge thing in our lives, taking place every month. It’s such a phenomenon that even people around me, family and acquaintances have started asking me on the 23rd of each month: “Is it out yet?”

And when the schedule is finally online and one doesn’t have the desired Honolulu-Papeete layovers, the lamenting begins. What, only one Hong Kong flight? But twice New York? And what do I do in Sao Paulo? I don’t even eat meat!

Why, why, whine….

When I began flying in the last millenium, our crew schedules were still planned by hand by the “top secret organization” that was the crew planning department. There was no drama and no crying and on the 24th of each month we would receive next month’s schedule in our post office boxes at our Operations Center in Zurich. Everyone accepted their schedules as they were. Then from 2002, with the introduction of the Preferential Bidding System, the “drama” began. We thought that we suddenly had the possibility of creating our own schedules with our preferred flights, preferred time off, preferred anything. So ideally I could attend my favourite Tuesday yoga class and in between fly to Los Angeles and Tokyo and even study art. Sometimes it actually would work. But sometimes you would get a month full of flights that you were absolutely not thrilled about. Early flights, even though you’re a nightowl! Daytime flights even though you like night flights. Short-haul instead of long-haul. Work every weekend! It all had to do with complex arithmetic, so time and time again the computer program would be unable to fulfill your South Sea dreams. So after the 23rd, a huge exchange bazaar would take place, with colleagues trying to swap flights and exchange layovers. Thankfully our colleagues at crew disposition who managed the covering of flights (and therefore our rosters) in the actual month let us do so, even though it meant more work for them.

But the fact remains – the more choices we get with influencing and creating our own schedules, the more disappointment and frustration we would experience, even though we are the ones responsible for our own actions.

I still like this computer based planning system, even though I lose my marbles over it time and time again.

I’m really curious to see how the new system will turn out. I have to remind myself that I still get more flights and lifestyle wishes fulfilled this way than the old-fashioned way of the last millenium.


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