Isn’t it exciting to be in the terminal! A sense of nervous anticipation permeates the atmosphere as the announcement is made that Roll Call is about to begin!
Roll Call is when you (finally!) find out if you have a seat on the flight you desire. As people marked themselves present in the hours before, the PAX Reps began developing the manifest for the available seats. Now, that process is finished and they’re ready to announce the names of the lucky winners of the seat lottery. I hope you are among them!
The PAX Rep usually makes an introductory announcement to notify prospective passengers they must be travel ready when their names are called. What does this mean? It means you have all the necessary documents for all travelers in your party (ID card and, if traveling overseas, passport), you have all your luggage with you in the terminal, your rental car has been returned (if there is a rental key drop box in the terminal you may wait until your name is called before depositing yours), and you are appropriately attired – no open toe shoes, etc. Once your name is called, you will be checking in for your flight and can no longer leave the terminal. The exception is if you are at a location where you need to obtain a pass for long term parking. If you cannot get that pass until your name is called, you are permitted to move your car once you receive the pass. Otherwise, you are expected to remain in the terminal until boarding.
Passengers’ names will be announced based first on Category, and then date and time of sign up within each. That means that all the Category 1 passengers will be announced, then all the Category 2, then all Cat 3, etc. Fingers crossed they get to Category 6, and I sure hope you clarified your date and time of sign up when you marked yourself present!
If you are chosen for the flight, you will proceed immediately to the passenger service counter for check in. This process is similar to checking in for a regular civilian flight, but does have a few quirks of its own. Your documents will be inspected, your baggage will be weighed (some terminals weigh everything, some only your checked bags), you will be asked your weight (tell the truth!), and asked if you would like to purchase a box lunch if those are available on your flight. If you are flying on one of the contract Patriot Express flights, you will receive a seat assignment. If you are aboard a cargo plane, seating is a free-for-all. You will then take your checked bags to the x-ray machine, where the Reps will tag them and take them for loading. After that, relax in the terminal – usually for about an hour or so – until the boarding announcement is made.
If you are not chosen, many experienced Cat 6-ers, including Lady Cat 6, advise that you not leave the terminal until boarding is complete. Some advise you not leave until the plane actually takes off. Occasionally – not frequently but more often than you would imagine – it turns out that more seats become available at the last minute. Perhaps because after the cargo gets loaded and the Load Master completes the weight calculations, there is room for a few more passengers. Perhaps the duty passenger manifest is not complete at Roll Call time and it turns out that some of those passengers have not shown up for the flight. If your name is called after you have left the terminal, you may be sorry. This actually happened to my sponsor and me a couple of months ago! The couple ahead of us left the terminal after Roll Call was completed, but before the PAX Reps realized they had miscounted the passengers. Thanks to that couple, we got to fly! Unless time is of the essence, it does not hurt to stick around and see what happens.
Of course, all this process is for busy terminals with more travelers marked present than seats available. There are other, not so busy terminals, or even not so busy days at normally busy terminals, where the process can be quite abbreviated. If there are obviously fewer passengers marked present than seats available, the Reps might just announce that everyone marked present may proceed to the Service Counter for check-in. Yippee!
One final Roll Call item: if you are selected for a flight, be sure you have your final destination printed on your boarding pass! This is very important to preserve your original date and time of sign up in case you need to catch another flight from an intermediate location (Travis to McGuire, and then another flight from McGuire to Ramstein) where you have not yet signed up. If you don’t have Ramstein (or wherever your final destination happens to be) on your boarding pass, you will need to recompete with all the other passengers at McGuire (or wherever you happen to be enroute) with very low seniority on the sign up list.
So, we’ve now gone through the whole process, from signing up to Roll Call: the basics of Cat 6 space a travel. If you got a seat at Roll Call, happy flight! If you didn’t, shrug it off and wait for another opportunity, or implement Plan B (you DO have a Plan B, right?). Flying space a is a dice roll, and you’ll have better luck with some other flight some other time – maybe even later today or tomorrow!