Sunday, July 4, 2010

Questions Answered: Commuting

Are airline hubs where every flight will start. so if i lived in San Diego and "crash-N-burn airlines" hub was in Seattle i would have to commute to Seattle every day to start my trips?

Crash N Burn Airlines.....CBA....catchy!

I don't commute and so far never have. I do however have several friends that do so. Some commute for a lifestyle choice....some by force.

One great perk of working for an airline is that you can live anywhere in the world. There is one pilot at my airline that commutes from from Romania! That's a 2 leg minimum International commute.

Now back to the question. Yes you can live in San Diego and commute to Seattle.  How easy is the commute? Well lets take a look.

Looking at today there are 7 flights a day between SAN and SEA. All on Alaska Airlines. The first flight leaves SAN at 7AM and gets you to Seattle at 9:20 AM. On the reverse trip the last flight BACK to SAN leaves at 8PM getting to SAN at 10:30PM.

I'm going to look at this as if I was a line holder at CBA airlines who lived in SAN and was based in SEA.

When bidding trips I would look at " commutable" lines. The definition of commutable all depends on where you live. Some cities have 15 flights a day starting at 5AM ending at 11PM. Most have less.

At my airline I have to sign in 1 hour prior. So I would need a trip that started after 11:30AM. On the backside I need a trip that terminates before 7PM. The earlier the termination the better as 30 minutes late could mean I miss the last flight.

My current airline does a decent job of creating a variety of commutable lines. Late starts and early finishes. If I were to be awarded a line that was only commutable on the front end (meaning it terminates after 8PM) then I would have to:

1) Plan on paying for a hotel each week

2) Hope to drop or trade the last flight/turn

Paying for a hotel week isn't desirable. All hopes would be to trade the last flight or turn. Commutable on the back end only has the same issues.

Of course San Diego is a suburb of Los Angeles (I think everywhere in California is a Suburb of Los Angeles or San Francisco).

Driving to SNA would net another 6 flights to SEA. Driving all the way to LAX nets over 20 flights a day across 3 airlines. That would be my best bet.

There is another issue with commuting. Unless your airline has a base from your will be paying for parking on your own. This could get very expensive. I know some pilots who park at hotels (with the hotel permission of course) and take the hotel shuttle to the airport. Others park near subway/rail stations and use public transportation. If you're really lucky your spouse will be at your beck and call to drop you off and pick you up. That will last until your commute flight home is delayed and gets in at 3AM.

With that covered there is another "issue" with commuting. Time. From SAN to SEA isn't too bad....same time zone. To catch the 7AM flight I would get up at 5:30AM. Once I started my trip at 11AM I could legally work until 1AM extendable until 3AM with weather/mechanical delays. Worst case scenario for sure, but it can happen. Commuting west to east is tough. If I were IAD based the first flight out of SAN is at 8AM arriving at IAD at 3:30PM. The last flight from IAD to SAN leaves at 4:55PM. I would be amazed if there was even one commutable line to fit that schedule.

East to West commuting is much easier. I will say I have a friend that commutes from PHX to ATL. She is able to hold lines that start late and finish early.

At the start of this post I said commuting is a lifestyle choice. Picking up and moving to the city where you are based may not make sense. If you have a family with kids, moving them out of school, selling a house and having your spouse get a new job is a lot to ask. Also many bases are in high priced cities (ORD, IAD, JFK, EWR, LGA, The Entire State of California). Moving might be financially prohibitive. I know many pilots who started off living in base, but due to airline management changes, they had to pick between commuting or quitting as their base closed/ shrunk. A Captain told me to never move your family for this job as it could be one move after another.

This covers line holders. What about reserve pilots? Simple. If you commute plan on spending $250-$600 on a crashpad.....each month. That's several thousand dollars a year spent on an apartment with other airline employees. Don't forget $9-$15 a day for parking!

Right now I am on reserve. I get 11 days off a month. Commuting to reserve could easily eat up 4 of my days off each month as I might not finish/be released from scheduling until late at night. Additionally I might have an early report. If I have to be available at 6AM, I would likely have to commute in the night before. It's ugly. Doable....but ugly.

A lot of information. Hope it makes sense.

1 comment:

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