About 8:30 in the morning, we returned home from dropping off our youngest two children at the elementary school. As I walked across the kitchen, I happened to notice a voicemail notification on our home phone. I must admit that with ninety something percent of calls coming to our cellphones, we’re really bad about checking the house messages.
I dialed into the system and listened to the message that had been recorded on Sunday afternoon. One of our pilot instructors wanted to fly my four day trip that started Tuesday morning. I wondered why he called my home number and feared the opportunity may have vanished since I hadn’t returned his call.
My commute to Houston and hotel reservation were already planned for Monday evening.
I needed to contact him quickly.
Fortunately, he answered his phone and hadn’t yet made other arrangements to fly a different trip. I apologized for not returning his call and he expressed regret for accidentally calling my secondary telephone number.
Every airline handles this situation a little differently. Some offer great flexibility to their training staff while others are more stingy. So, I will only be explaining what this instructor’s request meant for me at my airline.
I was being displaced from my trip by this instructor.
Airline flight instructors spend most of their month working in a simulator. They provide training for captains and first officers and some are qualified to conduct check-rides. These instructors were initially hired as line pilots and later interviewed for their positions in the training center.
To maintain their currency and overall awareness of actual operations, our instructors are required to fly thirty days a year. They have “fly days” mixed in with their monthly simulator schedules.
The instructors decide which legs or entire trips they’d like to fly. They have access to almost any flying in the system. All that’s required is a call to the pilot currently assigned the trip to formally ask permission to fly it. Hence, the Sunday afternoon voicemail.
Once I agreed to relinquish the trip, the instructor submitted his paperwork and the pairing dropped from my schedule.
When displaced, we are pay protected for the trip. We do lose meal per diem and international premium pay, but that’s a very small amount of cash compared to the earnings for a four day pairing.
When displaced, our contract allows two options:
- Stay home and enjoy the time off.
- Pick up another trip from “open time” and receive the extra pay on top of the displaced trip that was pay protected. In other words, if I’d picked up a similar trip, I’d be paid double for those four days.
I know what you’re probably thinking… If there are open trips, why don’t instructors pick up one of those assignments? That’s what some airlines require… But, that’s not the agreement we have with our airline. There are often reasons why unassigned trips remain in open time. They are usually terrible trips that nobody wants.
It was the third time this year one of my trips had been bought for an instructor or some other form of training.
I’d been off for four days, just received four more and had another four scheduled after the displaced trip. In the middle of August, one of the busiest months of the year, a twelve day stretch of days off just fell right into my lap.
So, I decided to do what I always do when displaced from a trip: I stayed home and enjoyed the time with my family.
Surprise vacations… just one of the things I love about being an airline pilot.
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