• NC Software is proud to announce the release of APDL - Airline Pilot Logbook version 10.0. Click here to view APDL on the Apple App store and install now.
  • Logbook Pro for Apple iOS version 8.1 is now available on the App Store. Major update including signature endorsements and dark/light theme support. Click here to install now.

Commutes of 1,000 Miles Grow a Bit Longer in Airline Industry

Amish RakeFight

Registered Loser
Joined
Dec 28, 2005
Posts
8,006
Total Time
.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/11/business/11commute.html?ei=5094&en=bea4dc1f367bd02b&hp=&ex=1149998400&partner=homepage&pagewanted=print

June 11, 2006

Commutes of 1,000 Miles Grow a Bit Longer in Airline Industry

By JEFF BAILEY
Think your commute is bad? Try Wichita to New York, Vancouver to Dallas or Panama to Miami.
For pilots and flight attendants, those commutes aren't simply routine, they are longstanding matters of choice, supported by two of the decades-old perks that make working for an airline special: they can hitch a ride on most any airline with an empty seat — and they usually only have to work 15 to 18 days a month, making it easy for them to live anywhere they want.
But nowadays, they find it hard just to get home, because planes are so full.
"Sometimes it takes me two days," said Jason Miller, 36, who is an Airbus 320 captain for JetBlue Airways.
Mr. Miller's typical commute to get to work: up at 4 a.m. in his Wichita, Kan., home; on a 6 a.m. flight to any middle-of-the-country hub (like Dallas, Chicago or Denver); then hoping for a seat on an immediate connecting flight to Kennedy International Airport in New York, where he is based.
"It's hit or miss," Mr. Miller said. "I go through every conceivable hub known to man."
After he lands at Kennedy, he sleeps all afternoon and evening, then rises to report to work well-rested at 11 p.m. for a late flight to the West Coast. Like many pilots and flight attendants who fly out of New York, he shares a small apartment, known as a crash pad, near Kennedy Airport.
Mr. Miller signs up to pilot red-eye flights because he can typically finish a multiday trip at sunrise in New York and then begin his trek home. "It makes my commuting easier," he said, because he has more options early in the morning to find connecting flights to Wichita. "It gives me all day to work it out."
At home, Mr. Miller red-eyes, too. "I clean the house late at night, or whatever," he said. "I'm a freak."
Not quite. The ranks of these extreme commuters appear to be growing — it is already in the tens of thousands — as financially struggling airlines trim their flight schedules. With fewer airports in a route network to call their home base, employees face a choice: either move near a more heavily traveled airport, or become commuters.
As a subculture, commuters feel misunderstood. "My mother comes home to the same house every night," said Bridget Drago, 27, an American Airlines flight attendant who lives in Denver and flies out of LaGuardia Airport in New York.
"I complain about money and she says, 'you need to work more.' But if I worked more, I might lose my sanity. I need time at home," Ms. Drago said in a telephone interview.
Is commuting so bad? Ms. Drago pondered that question as she had her feet up, lay stretched out in a La-Z-Boy chair (pleasantly full from a bowl of pasta) and had just hit the pause button on a DVD of "Brokeback Mountain."
This homey scene, however, was playing out behind a door at La Guardia in one of two communal sleeping rooms — each outfitted for about 30 people — maintained there by American, Ms. Drago said. Her home away from home. The pasta was food-court fare. The DVD was playing on her laptop. She sleeps there several nights a month between trips, free. "It's all I can afford," she said. "There are hundreds of us who do this in New York."
Ms. Drago and other flight attendants and pilots point out that once work starts, they enjoy their jobs.
Certain skills help. "I can honestly sleep at any time of the day in any time zone," said Kiandra Schardt, 26, a JetBlue flight attendant with a long commute from Hawaii to New York. When she returns to her studio apartment at the beach on Oahu's north shore after her two weeks of work, she said, "It's worth it."
Wary of fatigued pilots and flight attendants, the Federal Aviation Administration limits flying hours and mandates minimum time between flights. Some union contracts enforce further limits. But what employees do during off hours — sleep, commute — is not policed.
The issue of commuting contributing to pilot fatigue has surfaced in some accident investigations, said Malcolm Brenner, a National Transportation Safety Board expert on human factors in accidents. But the board has not studied the effects of commuting on safety more broadly.
"We can't be there making sure they go to bed at the right time," said Mark V. Rosenker, acting chairman of the safety board. "These people are professionals."
Mr. Miller, the JetBlue pilot from Wichita, says he polices himself. "When I'm going to work, I always have to have eight hours of sleep before I fly. I won't compromise safety," he said. "Plus, it's my career. One mistake and I'm done."
Most airline employees fly free in unsold seats or in jump seats in the cabin or cockpit, on their own airline or others. But with domestic flights averaging about 80 percent full — meaning that well-traveled routes at popular times are completely full — more airline workers are competing for far fewer empty seats.
So, while a short commute is nice, even better is a route with little competition. Ed Martin, an American flight attendant who is based in Dallas, said of commuting from his home in Vancouver, British Columbia: "I'm not competing with anyone."
With about 15 years working at American, Mr. Martin is relatively low on the seniority list, and is often placed on reserve for the international flights he prefers. He waits in Dallas for the flight that needs him, ready to be at the airport on two-hours notice.
He has become a regular at a Motel 6 near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, paying out of his own pocket the special crew rate of $28 a night, taxes included, at times waiting as many as five nights in a row.
Anne Loew avoided commuting for 29 years, living in and flying out of the New York area as an American flight attendant. But she and her husband, a freelance photographer, moved to Panama City, Panama, last year, selling their home in Connecticut. Ms. Loew, 52, transferred to American's Miami base.
"I'm worried about my pension," she said. "The cost of living down here will allow me to put the maximum in my 401(k)."
With no competing commuters, she easily boards a 1:25 p.m. flight from Panama to Miami, gets in at 5:15 p.m., clears customs and has plenty of time to make a work flight the same night to Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro.
Some airline office workers commute, too. Beverly Behrens, 28, recently transferred to Southwest's headquarters in Dallas from its Little Rock, Ark., base; she commutes daily until her husband gets a transfer. While she gets home late at night, he starts work at 3:45 in the morning as a screening manager for the Transportation Security Administration at Little Rock Airport.
"I generally see him as I'm going through the line and I say, 'Hey, baby,' " she said.
As years go by, though, commuting can lose its charm. Ellen McNamara, an American flight attendant for 30 years, has commuted to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago from her home in Nashville since 1995, when American closed its base there, she said. Flights are often full, and she ends up flying into Midway Airport often enough that she buys the Midway-to-O'Hare shuttle bus tickets 10 at a time, for $65.
"The pilots take the train because it's cheaper," she said.
Getting home for a doctor's appointment — or just to be with her husband — is getting harder. "If it weren't for the commuting," said Ms. McNamara, 58, "I could probably do this until I'm 70." Instead, she is thinking of retiring at 60. "I think it's time. It takes a toll."
 

gkrangers

college = debt
Joined
May 21, 2004
Posts
1,405
Total Time
some
Moral of the story. Live in base, or atleast near a major hub with lots of service to your base.
 

SKC

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 23, 2004
Posts
679
Total Time
55
Jason Miller used to fly for us and is one of the hardest working pilots I've ever met. Great guy.
 

The_Russian

Low Level Pilot
Joined
Sep 3, 2003
Posts
2,574
Total Time
Beer30
nd they usually only have to work 15 to 18 days a month, making it easy for them to live anywhere they want.

Yeah ok! You mean away from home 15-18 days a month? Morons. When will these people understand that we work 24 hours a day for 4 days straight? That come out to around 80 hours a week. A lot more than your average joe. What a great "perk".
 

HAL

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 26, 2001
Posts
733
Total Time
10000+
gkrangers said:
Moral of the story. Live in base, or atleast near a major hub with lots of service to your base.

That's a great idea, but easier said than done. What happens when the airline closes bases or shifts flying around every six months? It's not like the military where moving costs are covered. Even major hubs shrink - ask the USAirways guys about Pittsburgh; it's a third of the size it used to be. Or Northwest in HNL. And when you have a family with kids in school and relatives nearby, it's that much harder to up and move every time the corporate winds shift.

HAL
 

gkrangers

college = debt
Joined
May 21, 2004
Posts
1,405
Total Time
some
HAL said:
That's a great idea, but easier said than done. What happens when the airline closes bases or shifts flying around every six months? It's not like the military where moving costs are covered. Even major hubs shrink - ask the USAirways guys about Pittsburgh; it's a third of the size it used to be. Or Northwest in HNL. And when you have a family with kids in school and relatives nearby, it's that much harder to up and move every time the corporate winds shift.

HAL
Sounds like that is worth fighting for in a contract. But anyway, I understand your point, easier said than done.

I do think every effort should be made to live near a large hub before you get to tied down (wife, kids, etc) and it becomes difficult to move.

Living a 1 or 2 hour drive from DAL beats commuting from Wichita to IAH to JFK.

Of course, if you don't mind commuting, then live where you want, because that is a real perk of the job sometimes...
 

81Horse

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 15, 2005
Posts
926
Total Time
Enough
Live in your base -- let's say, a base the airline had had forever. Let's say, um, SEA. Live in that base for many, many years. No commute, no problem. And then -- POOF -- the base is closed. Now you are a commuter ... booking jumpseats precisely 10 1/2 days before each flight you need, spending thousands of dollars on hotels and losing dozens of days you'd otherwise spend at home every year. So, let's say you decide to suck it up, uproot the family, and move -- to a base such as, oh, DTW.

No sooner do you get there than the Company opens up a SEA base -- again.

You're dam*ed if you do, and dam*ed if you don't.
 

McNugget

Banned
messiah
Joined
Sep 14, 2005
Posts
1,022
Total Time
.....
It's much better to work for a company that allows you to live where you want, and pays for your tix to commute.
 

CFIse

Well-known member
Joined
May 19, 2005
Posts
258
Total Time
2150
The_Russian said:
Yeah ok! You mean away from home 15-18 days a month? Morons. When will these people understand that we work 24 hours a day for 4 days straight? That come out to around 80 hours a week. A lot more than your average joe. What a great "perk".

WOW - you work 24 hours a day for your company - how do you get around the things like required rest?

Or do you consider sleeping in a hotel room work, or working out in the exercise room at the hotel work, or eating dinner out work, or eating room serivce work or...... I could go on.

I work for a regional airline and I get paid per diem for every hour away from home and in a 28 day period I typically get 300-330 hours of per diem and I'm on duty for about 150 hours. I get between 12 and 10 days off.

I once had a "very good" job in the high tech industry that required me to travel during the week - in a 28 day period I was away from home 400-425 hours. And I WORKED about 200 hours during that 28 day period. I got 8 days off.

Pilots who whine all the time about how hard their life is because they work so much and because they're away from home all the time make me sick. Get a REAL job and THEN whine about how hard you work.......
 

The_Russian

Low Level Pilot
Joined
Sep 3, 2003
Posts
2,574
Total Time
Beer30
WOW - you work 24 hours a day for your company - how do you get around the things like required rest?

Or do you consider sleeping in a hotel room work, or working out in the exercise room at the hotel work, or eating dinner out work, or eating room serivce work or...... I could go on.

I work for a regional airline and I get paid per diem for every hour away from home and in a 28 day period I typically get 300-330 hours of per diem and I'm on duty for about 150 hours. I get between 12 and 10 days off.

I once had a "very good" job in the high tech industry that required me to travel during the week - in a 28 day period I was away from home 400-425 hours. And I WORKED about 200 hours during that 28 day period. I got 8 days off.

Pilots who whine all the time about how hard their life is because they work so much and because they're away from home all the time make me sick. Get a REAL job and THEN whine about how hard you work.......

Hold on right there buddy. As pilots, being away from home, we do work 24 hours a day. A normal American worker is home with his or her family every night. Sometimes they go on trips, but they are compensated appropriately. Such as meals paid for and vacation upon return to make up for lost time on the homefront. Most of them also don't pull 14-16 hour days every day. I am not whining about anything. If you read my post, I am clarifying what the media stated. Please, go back to your "real job". I don't need any lessons from you. Some of us here have been pilots from day one.
 
Top