Your profile says you gained your flight experience through civilian means. Did you ever care to ask your captains why he or she was still there. I think "stuck" implies that someone wanted to leave the "commuters," and couldn't. I can't speak from personal experience, but some of the captains I fly with are perfectly happy with 15+ years of serniority at my airline. Why give up a $90,000 a year job where you choose your schedule, to fly for another airline that might force you to move/commute. Most of the pilots I talk with at my company that want to move on will; the ones that want to stay will.
Sometimes the issue is quality of life. It can be very sweet at a regional with seniority. My neighbor has seniority at a regional.
He is home most nights, gets most of the important holidays off and has the pick of the bids. Granted, he only pulls in maybe 75-85k a year as a pilot, but in his off hours he is a real estate developer. I would venture to say that his real estate income is triple his flying income. Plus, with the time off, he uses it to do a lot of traveling.
For some people the flying is not the end result. It's a fun thing to get paid to do. I've done well on my investments but not well enough to rent an Airbus A320 for the 80 or so hours a month that I would like to fly. Until then, my employer can foot the bill.
I guess also you can look at when a person got on with a commuter "regoinal".
It may have been they got hired during an economic down turn, ie; no jobs available. And then the next thing they know is that they have alot of seniority and there quality of life is not that bad after the economy gets back on its feet say 6-10 years later.
At my airline there are people on the verge of being lifers, what I mean is that they are about to be in a position to where they will have to give up alot to move on to something else. I would guess that time would be around 5 to 6 plus years at any given company.
I think a good way to not being a lifer at a place you would rather not be is after you gain the experience neccesary to move on, you just bite the bullet and give up your seniority and pay early on so you don't get stuck.
I plan to do just that, stay long enough to get the experience and then see what happens, not saying I won't be loyal during my years of service, but I tend to climb the ladder instead of just being content.
How much money do you need to be happy? One day you will actually realize that there is more to life than a fat paycheck. I left a close to six digit income when I decided to be a pilot and I have never looked back, AND I have never been happier than I am at my regional. As others have stated....quality of life.
When you look at a "lifer" from the outside I think they(the lifers) are chuckling all the way to the bank. They live in the country and in a place that is cheap to live. They have great senority, and passes for the whole family anywhere in the world. They stay under the majic 70K line which means taxes are not the struggle that anyone with over 70K struggles with. The key is their expenses are low they are home every night and they get to walk their dog out in the country. Plus when they want deer season off everyone smiles and they don't sneer and accuse you of killing bambi. Being a "lifer" just might not be that bad......