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Airline Vs. Corporate?

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Jan 26, 2002
Ok folks, knowing that any job is better than no job; I'm just curious about getting some unbiased opinions here. Anything and everything is appreciated. I want to know what you think are the pros and cons of corporate and airline flying. Care to help me out?

I'll start by saying:

Pay: long-term, airline but a good corporate dept offers good salary sooner without the top-end pay

Equipment: corporate by and large

nights at home: most corporate or senior airliners

stability: tough one...airlines furlough and buy each other out but corporate depts are the first thing to go during recessions. Also, retirement age and type medical required can vary.

Any other thoughts?
Your points are all true, however, you also must take into account what type of flying you enjoy most. Corporate flying (excepting the fractionals) is more "hands on" in the sense that you take a greater part, if not the whole part, in flight planning and caretaking of the aircraft. Plus you have to cater to your passengers/bosses which can be good or bad. You generally fly fewer hours and go to more exotic places ... and wait.

Airlines do all the work for you short of actually flying the plane, but laziness isn't a factor since you fly mutiple legs. Plus you have monthly schedules and few surprise trips.

The lifestyles are generally so different you might be very unhappy if you chose the wrong one. I happen prefer the airline style. I flew Part 135 charter previously and I had a blast, but I got sick of being at the whim of indecisive pax and/or my boss. Airline flying is still fun for me and the schedules suit me fine. Money has nothing to do with my preference. Additionally, I went from flying a 30 year old DC9 to a brand-spanking new 717 and I enjoyed both of them. The latest technology is certainly nice but it isn't the be-all of flying.

BTW, all I know about corporate flying I learned from talking to their crews when I worked at an FBO. Even back then it didn't really exite me. But hey, some guys find the airlines suffocating. To each his own.

Let me tell you my story.

I fly a turboprop for a small company. We have one aircraft and two pilots on salary. We are on call. The time off is ours as long as we keep the flight department running smooth. My company treats us well. We fly to some basic destinations routinely where we sit and wait until business gets done. Sometimes we are in Addison, TX where Millionair gives you a brand new Lincoln Town Car to drive around and sometimes we are in places with barely an FBO and our company guys drop us off at a local greasy spoon for hours, or we take a taxi. We also go to nice vacation destinations in Colorado, Florida and Mexico where we frequently get to stay and enjoy ourselves on the company tab.

If the equipment and the lifestyles of the rich and famous excites you then corporate flying is fun. There is nothing like pulling up to Augusta Georgia for the Masters and seeing nothin' but big iron as far as you can look, (Granted it's better if you are in a jet yourself) and watching Hale Irwin et al walk through the terminal or hop into a limo.

I have decided to go to the airlines though and I am just waiting for United and the rest of the Airline community to straighten itself out. I want to know when I am going to be off. Even though right now I am home 80-90 % of the time and most of our RON trips aren't longer than 4-5 days. I would rather work hard and know when I have off. Plus I need more money than I make now. If I worked for a larger company with better pay and a jet the decision might be harder. Plus I want the travel benefits of airline employment.

In my opinion working for a good company is the most important thing whether its a 91/135 operation or an airline. Do your homework and follow your heart.

Good luck.
Been there...done that

The preverbial question of the ages. Trust me...it's a tough one. Having done exactly what you are asking about I'll give my opinion. I flew for a commuter for about 1.5 years and had the most fun I've had at a flying job. Didn't get paid worth a crap, but the schedule was perfect (no overnights, all day trips), the guys I flew with were awesome, and upgrade was quick. It was more of a party than a job.

Then they closed my domicile which just happened to be home for me. So I was going to have to commute, get a crashpad and a "beater" airport car...all on poverty wages. So I went to one of the local corporate operators, stumbled into a job and they gave me an offer I couldn't refuse. HUGE dollars, 2 jet type ratings, and all right out home. No brainer right? Well, not having any corp. experience I did what most anyone would do. I took the job with the expectation of finishing my career there.

Now I'm left seat flying jets all over the country. Staying at the best hotels, spending $200 for dinner every night, and basically not believing it because I was used to eating pb&j up at cruise because we didn't even hardly get dinner breaks at the commuter. We'd fly to one destination in particular about 90% of the time so that started to get old. And we'd fly for 2 hours and sit for 2 days. Now flying the best equipment out there was great, but we spent most of our time sitting and not much flying...about 300-350 hours a year in the seat. I started to feel like less and less of a pilot and more like a "business planner" and eventually I realized that I wanted to be flying more. Even the plush hotels got old after you spend so much time in them.

So, I made a call and got on at another regional in the area. I took a $40,000 pay cut to do it, but for me it was what I had to do to enjoy my job. There was just no fun in the corp. gig compared to the laid back atmosphere at the airlines. I worked at that regional for 6 months and then my "first choice" hometown airline finally gave me an interview and I got hired. There is no doubt that the bizjet time helped me so I'm glad I did it...plus now I know what corp. flying is all about. What can I say...I had to know.

After 3 months on line at the airline of my dreams, Sept. 11th happened and I've been furloughed since Nov. 1st. Things are looking up for us and I anticipate being back by the end of the year if nothing else comes up, I'm just glad I'm not furloughed from United or some other major....I feel bad for those guys, most of whom may never get back. So, my advice to you is...if you have a good job flying corporate, right now isn't the best to be thinking about a job at a major airline. Nationals or regionals might have some opportunities for you but you will take a big pay cut going to a regional. I'd wait for a national before I'd take an airline job. If I knew what was coming I wouldn't have left the corp. job, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much, but there were those occasional Alaskan fishing trips. The airlines will pick up and will be hiring again...not the majors, but there are a lot of good nationals as well as regionals out there.

That's my story...sorry for the length. I hope it is of some value to you and your decision. All and all I don't regret any of the moves I've made, they've given me some great experience. They also allow me to say when somebody asks this type of question..."been there...done that."

Capt. Over

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