It can be a curse or a blessing, depending on your point of view, the best thing in the world or the worst. One of the benefits of working as an airline pilot—or as a pilot for large corporate operators such as NetJets—is the ability to live in almost any locale you wish while commuting to your base. For companies like NetJets, such a perk truly is a perk, because the company buys you a positive space ticket to and from work, so you travel with all of the rights and privileges of a regular passenger.
Airline pilots that commute, however, almost never get such treatment. For example, I live just outside of Cincinnati, on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. My house is but a nine-minute drive from the employee parking lot at CVG. For most of the last eight years, it was an ideal situation, as I could leave my house thirty minutes before my check-in time and walk in with time to spare. No more. I am now based in New York, at JFK to be exact. CVG is still a nine minute drive away, but work is, at best, three hours from my house if all goes well.
It never dawned on me that Delta’s second largest hub would be gutted. Further, the cost of living in the Midwest, especially compared to my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland, is very low. Moving to Cincinnati when my wife and I did so made perfect sense, especially since I had a new baby I wanted to see as much as possible. I now find myself commuting to New York, and it is a challenge for all of us.
Here’s what commuting entails. Frequently, I have to travel on a day off in order to make an early morning report time the next day. Bidding these types of trips allows me to commute home on the day the trip ends, which is my preference. I also like to work early in the day versus starting what could be a sixteen hour day some time after lunch. I usually have a pretty good idea what flights I will be using before the month even starts, but schedules can and do change, especially seasonally; summers are tough for almost everyone, and the spring break season for pilots living in or commuting to Florida can be brutal. I usually check the schedule two days ahead of time to see what the loads and flight times look like. In my case, I have the option of also flying to LaGuardia (LGA), which is a huge advantage. Once I know my flight options, I check the weather to see if I will need to two-leg it through another city or go up earlier than normal. A great website for general flight options is passrider.com.