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1. Remember that your best friend is an airline that makes money, not necessarily the one with the highest pay or the best contract.
2. Wall St. doesn't know squat. Past success does not guarantee future results. If you go to Jet Blue or Southwest and find yourself asking "how in the world does this outfit make money", then don't hesitate to bail. Prime example that I lived through is USAir in the late 80's.
3. Take any opportunity to upgrade or otherwise pad your resume, no matter how stable you think your job is.
4. Keep in touch with pilots you know at other carriers. Lor's are now the rage, not qualifications, so continue to network.
5. Be thankful; no matter how bad you think you have it someone else has it worse.
I went the Air Force route. If I were to do it again I'd probably go Air National Guard. It all depends on what you want to get out of life.
I remember being brand new to the Air Force, with 8 years ahead of me, and hearing guys talk about the airlines. I asked a few questions, took lots of notes, yet focused on the current task at hand...being the best pilot I could. You need to focus on being great at your current job, while keeping an eye on the future. If you concentrate too much what is down the road, you may stumble, and blow it for the future.
Should have taken the job at ACA in 1996, but they said it would be about 2-3 yrs to Captain, actuually it would have been 2-3 months. Should have taken the job at Com Air back in 1988, but who wanted to fly the 110. Should have gone to work for New York Air back in 1982. Should have gone to the C. Cage's interview prep prior to interviewing at United. Should have attended the FAPA/Air Inc career seminares back in the 80's and early 90's. Maybe should have interviewed at CAL during the strike in 1982. All hind sight with which we are so gifted. But I have a lot of fun at the other placed I worked and I wold have missed all that if I had followed the above paths. Who knows
Im not sure what your college plans are, but try to attend one that offers internships with the major airlines. I have seen guys have consistent success over and over again. Most airlines offer them and good grades are a must to get them.