CRJ200 Airline Pilot

The personal experiences, thoughts of an CRJ captain


5 Tips for Making Your Commuting Life Easier

Posted by Jeffrey on November 3, 2008

Pilot Commuting Ideas

If you are an airline pilot, you always get a funny response when you tell someone you “commute” to work. This is because when you say “commute,” you really mean that you drive to the airport, request the jumpseat, and fly from one city (your home most likely) to another city (your base), to go to work, all along hoping and praying that you won’t be bumped out of the jumpseat, that the airplane won’t break, or that weather won’t cancel the flight. It is by no means a “normal” commute, i.e., driving.

The reason I’m talking about this is because the other day I was notified that I was awarded ORD (Chicago O’hare)…AGAIN…which means I will start commuting…AGAIN! The reason I say “again” is because for the first three years of my career at SkyWest, I commuted either from ATL to SLC or I commuted from ATL to ORD.

Now many pilots “commute” to work. I don’t know the exact percentage, but it seems like a lot of pilots do. Being an airline pilot allows you the opportunity to live where you want to live and work from where you want to work even if you have to fly there. It’s a strange combination and a strange way of living…believe me. But there are things you can do to make it more enjoyable and less stressful, but I will get to that in a minute.

I got out of “commuting mode” when I transferred to COS back in April of 2007. It gave me a chance to spend more time with my family and not have to worry about “getting” to work.

But, being based in COS has had its ups and downs. It has been a struggle since the flight schedules have been so inconsistent. One month I was getting 100 hours credit and the next month I’m not even breaking guarantee. What I mean when I say “not breaking guarantee,” I mean that I wasn’t even flying 75 hours a month, hence I didn’t get paid per Diem which translate into less dollars in the paycheck. Since I have been in COS, occasionally I hold a “line” but most the time I don’t. So to help get some “stability” back in my flying career, I put in for ORD where I will most definitely hold a line because I will be number 62 out of about 220 pilots. That is much better than being 40 out of 52 pilots in COS.

What I Have Learned About Commuting

Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about commuting that I want to share with you:

  1. Check the weather at least two days before you commute. A free and very useful website is provided by NOAA called the Aviation Weather Center, Aviation Digitall Data Service (ADDS). This will give you an idea about how early you need to leave to make sure you get to your base. Don’t be like some of these pilots that throw all caution to the wind and take the flight that gets you in 20 minutes before your show time. It’s not the responsible thing to do. At least give yourself two flights to get there if you can. You can use the free Executive Travel SkyGuide ( to get a good list of all the flights available for that day.
  2. Be extremely, even painfully, polite to the gate agent. This usually disgruntled person holds the proverbial key to whether or not you get on the airplane.
  3. Have something to read. The Kindle: Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device is all you will EVER need to keep you busy during those long commutes. You can download newspapers, books, files, and audio. The link above explains it all. It is awesome!
  4. Pack good, healthy, energy food in your eBags Crew Cooler. (Right now eBags is offering 20% off this item through the above link.) I pack an assortment of stuff like oatmeal, tuna packets, rice, apples, bananas, and protein bars, to name a few. Get creative and you will save money and never go hungry.
  5. Find your happy place! Commuting is really a state of mind. In reality it is not very fun but you can make it into something productive if you set your mind to it. If you make it into a horrible experience, that is exactly what it will become, but if you look for the positive  side of it, it will be a much more enjoyable experience.

So I hope this helps. If you have any other ideas about commuting and how to make it a better experience, I would really like to hear about them.

I’ll let you know how my commute goes because I am sure I will have some interesting experiences again over the next couple months that I will be able to share with you.

Till next time…fly safe!

Here are some other useful articles that I have written you might be interested in:


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