Hot Topic

Fall 1999, Steve starting flying for a regional airline. He was based in the New York area, and had a crash pad. I was a senior in college. I was living my life. He was living his. He flew in every now and again and we would go on dates and hang. It was nice. I would often drop him off at the airport - that way I could keep his BMW to drive around. His car was much better than my crappy 15-year-old station wagon, which my sister's and I loving call the "power wagon."

He wasn't based in New York too long. I honestly can't remember exactly how long he had a crash pad, but it was only a couple months. Apparently, the crash pad, in a hotel, was notorious and carried a ton of stories. I know some of these stories, but no need to share them now...let's keep this post PG. Steve also shared stories of his roommates - it is always fun for Steve to point out said roommate on a flight and say "remember about that one guy who..."

I clearly recall picking him up from his last commuting flight. This was before 9-11, so I met him at his gate. "Smell my bag," Steve directed me. "Um, no!" thinking it was full of smelly socks or something. Turns out, he gate checked his bag, and while in the cargo bin a crate of fish broke all over his bag. It was horrible. We drove back to my place with the windows down. Picture us, winter in the north, driving 65mph on the highway with windows down. We had to, the smell was that bad. When we got to my house, Steve kept his rollaboard on my front porch. He would douse it with febreeze often. Eventually the smell went away, and he went on the use said rollabroad for years!

After college graduation I joined the Peace Corps. When I got home, I moved in with Steve. This was in 2001. We have been living in the same area, more or less, since.

In 2006, Steve was hired at his current mainline airline. He had a short stint with sitting reserve at a base in the New York area, but that was short lived. Soon enough, he was back home, and based at our home airport. Aside from these two short stints, adding up to maybe six months, we never had to deal with any long-term commuting.

After he got hired at his current airline, we started having kids. This was all very much planned. Any hardships we faced with Steve's schedule/pay was before kids.

A couple years ago, right after we got back from a cruise, I read on twitter that our home airport was no longer going to be a hub for Steve's airline. Our son was in Kindergarten, and our daughter had yet to start school. We figured that we would move before the kids got settled into school. We figured we would make the move, and be set.

We looked at different cities, different suburbs, school districts, houses...all the normal stuff families look at when relocating. We narrowed it down to two areas. We were going to give ourselves a year to make the move. We had told family, we even started clearing out our basement.

...and then Steve had breakfast with a dear friend on a random Friday morning. They have been friends since college. They were in one another's wedding. Steve is the Godfather of one of his children. That afternoon I got home from work to find Steve weeding the front flower bed. He looked up, gave me a welcoming kiss, and said "I don't want to move. I had breakfast this morning with Dave, and I won't be able to get that anywhere else..." And that is true. We have been in the same metropolitan area since the mid 90's...the same suburb since 2002.  We have good friends here. We have family nearby. We are rooted here.

"I am glad you said that, because I don't want to move either."

And with that, we decided to stay put - at least until the kids graduate from high school. Steve and I talk/dream about our plans after the kids graduate. Our needs will be so different then, but right now our focus is raising the kids.

Like I said, talk of moving was a couple years ago. Since then we have truly settled into our home, our town, our life. Steve can hold up to 18 days off a month. He has been working 3-day trips. He has been getting weekends off. He has been mostly getting holidays off. All has been peachy...super....perfect...pinch me because things are too good. We always recognized how great things were, and how we just need to enjoy it, because nothing lasts forever.

Recently we have been talking more about changes, like something is in the air. Steve is working two Sundays in March. Last March wasn't an ideal schedule, but there was a reason for that. This shitty March schedule came with no excuse. Apparently the flying is being spread out between bases....or whatever exactly Steve told me. I do know that there wasn't a "problem" with this bid, like there was last March, so this could very well be our new schedule reality.

The kids are in school five days a week. That leaves just Saturday and Sunday as family days. And if Steve is soon entering a world where he only gets one family day a week, well, time to think about commuting. Why would he stay based here with a shitty schedule, when he would get a better schedule at another base.


Commuting. A dreaded word. I take that back. I didn't dread it before. I dread it now that we have kids. I can go with missing Steve...I am a grown woman, an independent woman. I am not cool with the kids missing Steve. These are the years that matter the most.

Steve is senior enough, company wide, that he will have ways to manage commuting. Captain? What base? Wide body? Same equipment? Weekends off? Reserve? Crash pads? Hotel rooms? Buy a property? Back to back trips? There are lots of different scenarios that can play out since he will have a decent amount of flexibility with his seniority.

Or does Steve just stay put until the pilot base closes, all the while getting schedules that go from shitty to really shitty. His base is pretty senior, so when flying leaves that will only make his schedules worse.

Steve and I talked about this hot topic when we had a fire going in the backyard the other weekend.  You know, when Steve told me he felt like an outsider in our home. We also talked about it this past weekend while at a dinner/dance for our kid's Polish School.

A girlfriend sent me the below picture, totally unprovoked, with the caption "that is some deep conversation." This picture was taken exactly when we were talking about this hot topic.

It just goes to show you how much this topic is weighing on us...that in the middle of food and fun (and wine!) we still talk about the hot topic.

Wanna know my biggest concern with change? I don't want to fuck up my kids. We are in a comfortable home. They are in an excellent school district. Steve is present, as much as you can be as an airline pilot. The kids were born into Steve's pilot base, into Steve's schedule. I don't want a decision to impact the kids in any negative way.

I am sure as the months and maybe even years progress you will find me writing more and more about this hot topic. We are still very much in the "possible scenarios" talk right now. What if this? What if that? I am sure that Steve is looking at lines in other bases to see where he would stand. I am sure he already knows how much money each possible move would make. I am sure he is researching this far more than I will ever know.

There certainly could be upside to change. I am very much an optimist person, so I know that I can make the most of a situation. Perhaps Steve will go to the 777, and I will stop working and the kids and I will join him on trips during the summer. Perhaps we will buy a property somewhere close to his new base, and we will teach it as a retreat house of sorts. Perhaps Steve will ultimately be home more with commuting?

In the meantime, we will just continue to be, all-the-while playing out possibilities. Working two Sundays a month isn't as bad as it gets, so there is that.

I want to hear from you...Do you commute? How much does it suck? Or, does it work in your favor? What do you do to ease your commute? Talk to me...I wanna hear from both pilots and pilot wives on how commuting is for your family.

ETA: Based on comments, I wanted to add that if/when Steve does commute it would be just one leg. Depending on the base, his flight would be between 1 to 1 1/2 hours, and a drive would be between 5 1/2 hours to 9 hours.


  1. Pilot here. Honestly, having commuted and lived in base, I'd still rather do crap trips and drive to the airport, versus good trips and commute. Commuting basically becomes a 2nd part time job. You're evaluating weather, loads, and flight options the day before your trip and trying to ensure you have back up plans. At the end of the trip/approaching the last day, you do the same thing for going home. Some can deal with it better than others.

    At least you have nearby bases and like you said no more than a 1 to 1.5 hr flight. If you are where I assume you are, then at his airline there are options for ORD, IAD, and EWR. I on the other hand am a NY based pilot for VX and we got bought by AS. Although nothing is official right now it is still on my mind that what if this NY base closes as a result of the merger? The next closest bases are LAX, SFO, PDX, and SEA. Those would all be 2,000+ mile commutes. I lived on the west coast once, I won't do it again due to lack of family and support network there. And like you we have two extremely young kids.

    1. Thanks for your input! The part time job reference really hits home. I would hate for that to happen.

  2. I live close to the base which happens to be the largest and main base for the airline, so I am lucky in that regard. If commuting was an option I would commute, but no more than a 2 hour flight, anything else is too much. I hear of guys commuting from Australia to the uk which is insane.
    Steve must be pretty senior now if he can hold left seat on the 777. Congrats.

    1. left seat for the smaller planes...FO on the triple, still.


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