Question for airline pilots...


New Member
I have a question, mainly for current regional pilots, but anyone feel free to respond. What would you say your average time away from home is each month? Has it changed much since the time when you were a new-hire? Also would like any insight on how the time away from home affected your family/significant other(s) if it applies. And finally my last question is regarding where you are based. Would it be possible for someone, especially a new-hire, to be based somewhere out of state if they lived close to an airport and could jumpseat a day or two ahead of the trip? Would that be worth it? The reason I ask all these questions is that I just graduated from college this week and have many options to take at this point. I have always had dreams of flying for the airlines, but I am also getting to the point where I can see myself being married and having a family in the future. Just trying to find a balance between being able to be with the ones I love and being able to get paid to do what I love. Thanks for any input and opinions.
As a regional airline pilot, I'll venture forth some answers to your questions. First a little background: I started Skywest as an FO in the Brasilia based in Sacramento, CA while living just north of Burbank. I commuted for two months until we moved to Portland where I was based for almost two years. I transitioned to the jet and we moved to Salt Lake City where I've since upgraded to RJ captain. I'm married and we just had our second child six weeks ago.

Time away from home: In the Brasilia, there are 1,2,3, and 4 day trips. Most schedules have you working any combination of the above to give you four working days a week. In the jet in SLC there are mostly 4-day trips with 3 days off a week. There are some 3-day, 2-day, and locals. MOST schedules have about 13-16 days off in the month clumped in 2-4 day clusters. Reservists get 10-11 days off.

I started commuting to reserve. YUCK. I was fortunate to have good friends to stay with in Sacramento while I sat by the phone. Once we moved to Portland, being on reserve was great because I was home all the time. Once I got off reserve I flew mostly back-to-back 2-day trips. It was great too! I transitioned to the jet as a pretty senior FO so I got some REAL good schedules. Mostly 3-day trips with 4 days off inbetween. Now I'm a real junior captain on reserve. I live close to SLC so it's awesome being on reserve at home. I fly about ten of my twenty days on.

Impact on my wife: She was nervous when I first got the airline job. She'd heard the typical stories about airline pilots having affairs and broken marriages. It took her a few months to get over that. She still doesn't like me away much, especially with the kids, but it's not nervousness- she just likes me being around! My kids are still too young to really miss me, although my son is starting to ask "where's daddy?" in the mornings.

As a new-hire, I would strongly suggest moving to your domicile- especially if you're going to be on reserve. The company does not pay for any lodging in your domicile so you'd have to find a crash-pad or have your own place there at your domicile. A car there would be smart also. These just make your costs go up when you're making very little. You'll only have 2-3 days off a week and the longer your commute, the less time you'll have at home.

I know many who commute and love it. The benefits of living where they want outweigh the time commuting for them- especially if there is other family around. Support for the homefront while you're away is very important. Personally, I enjoy just hopping in my car to go to work not stressing over flights being full or getting bumped out of the jumpseat. My biggest concern is which CD I want to listen to on the way to the airport!

Regional airline flying is great, but I think the majors can offer more. My goal is to get on with a major as soon as they start hiring again. They offer more money for more time off.

I am very satisfied with the career path I've chosen. While I do have to go away on trips, I find that overall I'm home more than my friends who have 8-5 office jobs. While my seniority affords me more money and time off, they're lumped with more responsibility and time at the office.

Anyways, I've rambled on too much! Hope this helps and good luck on your path to the flight deck!

Thanks a lot for the great post! That really gives me a good insight to what my future may hold. Every pilot I talk to has a different viewpoint and I love to hear each one. Also nice to hear from an airline pilot that has a family. Once again, thanks for the help.


Kind of a different perspective, but I'll offer it anyway. I grew up the son of a United pilot, and I think I turned out pretty good. Dad being away for days at a time is something that you, as a kid, just sort of get used to. I really never got upset about spending holidays without Dad, and I think the combination of my mom not making a big deal about it and our celebrating the holiday when Dad got back made it much better, and put our priorities in perspective. Christmas doesn't HAVE to be on the 25th of December. It can be the 26th, or the 24th. You learn to be flexible. Heck, my pop even spent 3 months TDY in London when UAL was flying domestic routes in Europe with the 727s, and a year in HNL as a junior 747 captain. Talk about cool a cool excuse to spend 3 weeks in London!

Anyway, don't think being an airline pilot spells death for a family. Just have to make sure that everyone keeps Dad's job in perspective. No point in getting frustrated about getting called out from reserve on Christmas. Take the flight enthusiastically, smile at your crew that's stuck out there with you, and remember you're living the dream! <grin>

My schedule usually gives me 13 days off per month. That translates into actually being at home about half the time when you take commuting into account.

Our contract guarantees 11 days off per month, so while I was on reserve and in training, I was away from home a lot more. As you gain seniority, you can hold lines that have more and more days off. You can also drop trips if you don't mind losing the pay.

I commute to IAD from GSP. At ACA, we have pass privileges on Delta and UAL. Normally I prefer to take the direct ACA flight, but sometimes my schedule requires me to fly Delta through ATL. In addition, we can also jumpseat on most airlines. I have jumpseated with US Air and AirTran in my commute.

To me commuting is worth it since DC is an expensive place to live. At GSP, my wife and I get to live in the country close to our families as well as save money. Most commuters maintain a crashpad at their base, but I still think that it's worth it.

It is tough to be married and have an airline career. It's hard being away so much, and it's almost inevitable that it will cause conflicts and suspicions. You definitely have to have a spouse that you can trust. On the bright side, you get lots of "reunion sex."
On the bright side, you get lots of "reunion sex."

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I'll second thist. I had an girlfriend that lived 6 hours away for a couple years. We saw each other one maybe two weekends a month and there is nothing better than what dave calls "renunion sex!"