Monday, March 30, 2020

Last Flight out of Quito

My how the world has changed since my last post.

March has been bizarre. I bid reserve by accident. Most of the time on reserve at my airline reserve pilots get between 0 to 50 hours or so of credit. I will end March with over 82 hours of credit.

I say credit and not hours flown...because it's complicated. Long story short I get a minimum of 5 hours 15 minutes of credit for each calendar day I work. If I fly a 30 minute flight today to an overnight and then a 30 minute flight back tomorrow...I get 10 and a half hours of credit. Additionally if I fly 8 hours today and 1 tomorrow I still get a minimum 10 hours 30 minutes. Deadheads pay the same as flying. When I'm not on reserve it's easy to make money by flying super short flights and getting more credit than flying.

For reserve this month I bid short call. Short call gives me 76 hours pay no matter how little I fly. If I get more than 76 hours credit then I get the extra. So this month I will get an extra 6 hours pay...about $966 before deductions.

The month started off with full airplanes and long flights. The first trip had an overnight in Madison, Wisconsin (where it was freezing!!!!) and then an overnight in Guayaquil, Ecuador...where it was 85 degrees and humid. All South America return flights are red-eyes. Guayaquil earned the rank as my least favorite red-eye as it left at 1:40 AM which at the time was 12:40 AM my home base time. The other red-eyes I do leave at least two hours earlier. When I rest before a flight I don't feel as tired as I don't get into deep sleep. I was in deep sleep before the Guayaquil flight. It was rough.

Before my next trip started the Covid-19 issues began to be taken seriously in the United States. Flight reservations began to quickly cancel. No longer were my planes full...they were half full at best for the next trip where I had overnights in Boston, Charlotte and Quito.

This trip was interesting as it included a trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica. I flew the leg from Boston and the Captain flew the leg to Charlotte. It was odd leaving a bunch of folks on an island in the middle of a pandemic. Their vacation though.

We were scheduled to fly the last flight out of Quito as that country was closing their borders. The crew bringing the plane down to us had a long day ahead. They were to leave Boston, fly to Miami, sit 4 hours, fly 4 1/2 hours to Quito, sit 2 hours then immediately deadhead on my flight 6 hour flight to Dallas. Normally they would overnight in Quito. I texted the Captain of the inbound to see if they were up to all of that. They could totally refuse in Miami as it would be a crazy long day. He said he was fine with it.

The flight down was full plus a company pilot in the jump seat....that checked two bags. I thought this was odd. Why would a company pilot fly down on the last flight to the country? It turned out he lived there with his family. He moved them all down there 4 years ago. With everything shutting down he knew he wouldn't be able to go back to work until May 6th. Crazy times.

Quito is a very high elevation city. Even though I spend hours at 8000 foot cabin pressure altitude, the elevation at Quito drains me. The hotel is at over 9200 feet!! I stayed in my room except when I needed food. I ate the hotel buffet (cleaning my hands after touching any public handle or lid) alone as there were few hotel guest. I went to nearby American fast food places for lunch and dinner.

The flight out was booked full. Boarding started on time, but the fueler arrived late. We needed almost 41000 pounds of fuel due to weather in Dallas requiring an alternate. With Quito being so high it also meant we had to be extra cautious on takeoff as we were at max takeoff weight.

Departure was set for 11:50 PM. We wanted to leave early. Well the fueler was only 1/2 done at 11:35 PM. Nine open seats in the back. Again we were to be full. Through my window I saw a lady sprinting through the terminal. She boarded at 11:40 PM. Still 8 open seats. The agent said two families just made it to the ticket counter. There was no way they would make it in time. The fueler finished and we reluctantly closed the door at 11:50 PM to be off the ground by midnight.

I was hoping for a boring flight. About 150 miles south of Panama the Flight Attendants called us stating a passenger passed out and was being attended to by two Doctors.

About ten minutes later one Doctor said land now while the other said wait. We began the process of calling our company medical personnel while also planning for a medical diversion. We knew wherever we landed we would be stuck....for a while...due to Covid-19.

Thankfully they called back stating the passenger was awake and responding to the IV of fluids. The passenger was in their 70s traveling with his adult children. He was dehydrated and didn't take some medication. Ugh.

The rest of the flight was really bumpy due to turbulence all over. About 2 hours from landing we got a message that the CDC would meet our flight for a full Coronavirus inspection. Sigh.

I made an amazingly smooth landing and we pulled into the gate surrounded by flashing emergency vehicles. Thankfully the inspection was quick and we were released.

After that trip the rest of the month was flying around planes less than 25% full...or deadheading. I did fly to Pittsburgh empty to be put into storage.

The enormity of all this is too much for me to process. I'm just going to keep flying until they tell me I can't.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.



  1. When there is worry about airborne contagion as there is now, do the airlines/captains change the recycled air mixture in the cabin?

    Stay safe.

  2. The aircraft I fly has HEPA filters installed. The current guidance is to have high flow at all times to keep air moving through the aircraft. No change in recycle ratio.

  3. very bloody expensive. i always went there with friend, online air ticket bangladesh


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