American Airlines isn’t operating as many flights as it used to. They’ve downsized their Phoenix flight attendant base as well. US Airways needed a large contingent out of Phoenix before merging with American, because it was the airline’s only hub west of Charlotte. That’s no longer the case.
Many flight attendants who weren’t furloughed back in the fall have transferred to other cities. Those that remain are only getting assigned to flight schedules right now, versus working reserve, if they’ve been with the company for fifty years. You’d need a start date in the summer of 1971 to avoid working reserve right now.
Reserve means there are specific days and times you’re scheduled to be ‘on call’ for the month. You can get a call and have to acknowledge it right away, head straight to the airport. You have to be available at all of your scheduled times, maybe starting at 4 a.m. You may sit at home, be out and about, and have to head into the airport to travel – or not. (You may also be told ahead of time that on some of your reserve days you’ll actually travel.)
You may wind up traveling to different cities as a complete surprise. you don’t know where you’ll be sleeping on a given night. Or you may wake up in the middle of the night and wait, only to do nothing.
After furloughing about 8000 flight attendants there are American Airlines cabin crew that have been with the airline for over 40 years back on reserve. Even though the most junior flight attendants are back on payroll retroactive to December 1 thanks to government subsidies, none of those have worked a single scheduled flight yet. Most won’t before American’s obligation to keep paying those employees expires at the end of March.