At the airlines, your life is completely dependent on seniority. It is all about when you started and how many people you have below you. When you BID (aka pick out and request trips that you want to fly for each month), the top FA's usually get what they want, when they want it... and so it goes on down the line. Once all the trips have been assigned, the rest are given a reserve line.
This is how reserve at my airline works- I get assigned my days off (11) and then I bid for a call window. Our call windows are 12 hours long (ie. 12pm-12am). When on call they can page me anytime within my window to report 2 hours later for a trip. Basically we are covering sick calls, when inbound flights cancel, vacations, personal leave, etc.
The thing with reserve is that you are paid a monthly gaurantee of flight hours (which is also different for each airline). This is because you have no control over how much or how little you fly- thats is all in the control of the crew schedulers, so you can't really know how much or how little you will make each month. Basically, the more you fly, the more you are paid. Some people care and want to fly a lot and others just want to hang out and play.
How long this reserve lasts depends on your airline. Usually, at the regionals (where i am) it was 2-3 years... this is what I expected when I started. I was moving up and up on the list and getting better call windows and days off when the economy went down the tubes. We furloughed 150 FA's (all below me) and I fell to 8 from the bottom in Cincinnati, then I couldn't even hold my base and got sent back to JFK where I am sitting about 30 from the bottom. My 3 year anniversary date is on the 18th and I am about (seniority wise) where I was when I started.
Over the summer we were completely understaffed. They had furloughed the amount needed for last winter but didn't really think too far ahead into where we would be in the summer... thus we all worked our butts off. June, July and August are all pretty much a blur of commuting/working making me feel kinda robbed of a summer (well that and the fact it rained all the time). So this month, the flight hours dropped
When we all started, we imagined working somedays and sitting around the other- which is not how it has been for a really long time. My friend Leighanna and I both worked the first week of September and it has been a wonderful little breather not being called everyday. We sat our call windows the other day at Rockaway Park, at the beach... this is what we dreamed being a Flight Attendant would be like...
Bringing the glamor back into the job one day at a time. :)
(Enjoying Sake with our sushi dinner after our call windows closed!)