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Why be a lifer?

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New member
Dec 29, 2001
Question-- Most major airlines pay more on 2nd and 3rd year pay than you could ever make at a regional airline as some RJ Captain. Not to mention that the pilot contracts at Major Airlines are ten times better with respect to working conditions (e.g. duty rigs, trip rigs, minimum days off, etc.). So why do people become lifers at a regional?
Non lifer -

reason #1 Quality of life.

reason #2 Unlucky at the economic cycle - many of ASA's ex military pilots came in the early 90's when there were not jobs at other airlines.

reason #3 Would rather be a Captain than an FO

reason #4 Would rather not move to NY, or some other undersireable junior pilot base.

reason #5 Enjoy working in a more dynamic environment - lets face it, how many guys at the majors seem to be having as much fun as the pilots at the small jet operators?

reason #6 Not ex - military, not willing to play the "who you know" game. Some folks are used to getting hired on the basis of qualifications and find the political hiring process at the majors offensive. I am not saying major pilots are not qualified, but rather everyone knows at Delta having a friend that knows Plato is (was) a very important factor in getting hired.

reason #7 Former helicopter pilot - the fixed wing crowd tends to like fixed wing pilots.

reason #8 Which major is hiring right now?

If it were not for the constant threat of ALPA's predatory scope I would gladly stay at a regional. However, as soon as the next hiring cycle starts I am going to try to get away from this situation where your career is controlled by somebody else's MEC. In the meantime Airtran is looking better and better...
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Different people have different priorities in their lives. While some want to make more money, others want to spend more time at home as opposed to a hotel room on the road. My guess would be that "lifers", as you put it, are not in it for the money. Once they are at the top of the senority list at a regional, they can hold a great line that allows them to be at home with their family while making a respectable income. Staying at a regional airline allows them to fulfill the priority that is most important to them. Anyway, that's just my opinion on that. I could be way off.
Also some people have a family, children in school, a mortgage payment.. They are currently making 65K per year and it is hard - sometimes impossible to accept a job for 28K and move into a crash pad in NYC. Also you give up a great deal of seniority at your company to go to bottom of list and risk furlough.
Forgot: In reality our hiring process is not always that fair, as far as hiring the most qualified. I used to work at Amer. Eagle and they had hundreds of High time (10,000 hr +) captains who were great pilots- many of them great employees and American wouldnt give them the time of day. There is sometimes no rhyme or reason to why some get in and some dont-- believe me its not always the good pilots or good employees who get hired.
Right now you couldn't hand me a free job at a major to take me away from my current one. WHY would i leave????? I am home EVERY night, I have EVERY weekend off, I have EVERY holiday off and best of all, I have a life away from work. How may guys at a major can say those things. I am sure there are some, but they have been there for at least ten years or so. The kicker is, this is my FIRST year here, and i make more than an F/O starting for a major, so again I ask WHY?, or better yet, why NOT stay here?
Some people try to make things better for their friends at the regional AND wish to move on to a major. Others prefer to keep the current system where only the major pilots get a good deal, to the detriment of everyone else. It's a personal choice.
Regional career

I had a friend whom I met when we were six years old. Just like me, he always liked airplanes and he started flying in his 20s and made it to Metro captain at a very small commuter in our city by his mid 30s. He made decent money, lived in our home town, kept his old friends, was near his parents, and had plenty of time off. He seemed to be very satisified with it all. I know he went down to Houston to see if he could get on with CO, but he still liked his situation here.

I would have been delighted with regional flying as a career. I was realistic about my chances with the majors and knew I had no chance. But, I felt a regional was attainable. Getting a class date was my objective and captaining a 1900 would have fulfilled my goals. The money was fine then and with COLA would be fine now. Back then, the RJs were on the drawing boards, so had I made to the commuters, I now would be a senior RJ captain. That would have been icing on the cake.

I also am not a political person by any means and am, too, offended by a hiring process based on politics. I want to be hired based on my quals and not on who I know.
At my regional the contract sucks, the pay sucks, there is no retirement, and seniority doesn't matter because all the schedules suck! I'm guessing the lifers don't have a college degree, have poor inteviewing skills, or have aircraft violations.
Which regional has 73's, 75's and 76's?

Most of us are trying to move on, but, well it's just not a good time right now.

I sure hope for your sake and for those working with you, that you get back into that 76 cockpit ASAP!

BTW - I have a 4-year degree, interview well, and no violations (touch wood - feels good)
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