Monday, April 20, 2009

Questions Answered: Commuting Policies

I was just wondering what your airlines commuter guideline is? I know that a lot of pilots commute and was wondering what you exactly have to do?

One of the freedoms of working for an airline is that you don't have to live where you are based. Living in base means being able to drive to work. Of course sometimes a pilot might live in base only to have the base close....and they become commuters.

I am currently toward the end of a book about the demise of Braniff airlines. Toward the end of the airline, employees were being moved all around the system due to furloughs and the closing of bases. There were employees who moved three times in three years.

Currently I don't commute. I am pondering the idea though. I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys commuting or says it's easy. Well there was one guy...but he is single, no pets and young.

Airline commuting policies vary. Most of the "good" airlines allow flight crew members to miss 2 to 3 assignments per year due to commuting problems. At my airline a flight crew member must list on at least 2 flights (on a regularly scheduled air carrier)in order to qualify under the rule. If they list on two flights and can't get on (and will miss their assignment), they must call crew scheduling and let them know they will not make the assignment and that they wish to use the commuter policy. The flight crew member will not be paid for the flights that they miss. If the assignment is a multi-day trip they can still attempt to commute to base and pick up the rest of the trip. The flight crew member will be paid for the remainder of the trip. Additionally if the flight crew member misses an assignment due to a late flight (the flight they commuted on would have allowed them to be on time, but ended up arriving too late) they can still use the commuter policy.

Commuting experiences vary. I know quite a few Flight Attendants and Pilots who live in one outstation that has an unusually high number of daily flights to base. The flights typically have plenty of open seats. One Flight Attendant in particular has only used the commuting policy once in the 6 years she has been here. There are many more cities where commuting is very tough even with a large number of flights. Don't assume just because the city you live in has a lot of air service that it will be easy to commute.

One really senior Captain I have flown with has a two leg commute to get to work. He lives in a pretty small town in the upper Mid-west not served by our airline and has no mainline service. He commutes/jumpseats on one airline to a city where he can then catch a ride on mainline to base.

I have quite a few friends who commute to work on Fedex/UPS. There is an obscure policy which allows shipping of people in boxes as long as they have sufficient air space. With the employee discount we get as pilots, FEDEX/UPS shipping of ourselves is really affordable. Hmmm...okay not really. Fedex/UPS have several jumpseats available for travel. After their own pilots are taken care of, pilots from other airlines are welcome to catch a ride.

The stories I have heard from those that have used Fedex/UPS are all positive. The companies make it easy to list, give instructions on where to be and when, and typically order a meal free of charge for the jumpseater! The downsides of using Fedex/UPS are that they typically involves overnight flights (which could be a positive) and they normally park quite a distance from the main passenger terminal. Getting a ride from the cargo ramp to the passenger terminal can be tricky.

If a Flight Crew member misses more than the allowed flight assignments due to commuting they could cease to be a Flight Crew member.

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