Real Answers from Real Pilots

Airport Base vs. Home Location

(Elaine W) #1

Hi guys, Elaine here again!

You may remember from my last question, but I’m not aspiring to be a pilot, rather my boyfriend is. I’ve thought of another question that I would like to ask on his behalf. We currently live in New Jersey and are hoping to move to Florida (possibly the Tampa or Fort Lauderdale areas) around the fall of 2017. Our plan is to move there as a new permanent home. That said, once someone works their way up to the regional/major airlines, what are the chances that they will be able to live near their airport base? Do airlines take your current home location into account or accept requests, or is assigning someone to a base far from home common practice?

We are really hoping that once we move to Florida, he will be able to be based at the nearest airport. Say if we are in Tampa, then TPA. Any insight would be great, thanks!


Hi Elaine and welcome back,

It’s often said the best thing about being a pilot is the fact you can live ANYWHERE but it’s also said that’s the worst thing as well. The vast majority of pilots commute to work. For some it’s easy, for others it can be a quite a challenge. Let’s answer your questions specifically.

First the airlines give absolutely ZERO consideration based on where you live. All the airlines have their established bases and domiciles and it’s entirely up to the pilot to make that work. The airline will initially assign you to a base where the airline needs you. Now, as with virtually everything in the airlines it all comes down to seniority. You bid for the base you want, whether you get it or not is based on your seniority in the company AND the seniority of that base. When I was first hired at ExpressJet they had 3 bases (EWR, IAH and CLE). EWR was the most junior base since the majority of the pilots didn’t want to live in NJ but since I lived in NY that’s exactly where I wanted to be so it was all good. If however EWR was a very senior base (meaning that’s where everybody wanted to be) I would’ve had to wait until my seniority allowed me to bid into it. This could be months, could be years.

Another thing to consider is are there any airlines based (or have domiciles) where you want to live. I’m not aware of any airlines (Regional or Major) with bases in TPA? If that’s the case it doesn’t really matter where your husband is based he’s going to be commuting. Now the FLL/MIA area does have pilot bases (JetBlue and American) but those are both VERY senior so it could be tough getting based there. The good news is as I said most pilot’s commute and make it work. My advice is live where you want to live and raise you family. Hubby can always just jump on a plane, that’s what we do.


(Elaine W) #3


Thanks for the quick reply… that was helpful info! To ask a follow-up question, since you are saying that most pilots commute to their bases, is there a good deal of time at home lost because you are commuting to/from base? Also, I assume that the airlines don’t cover any commuting costs since you are not technically “on the clock” yet?



Yes unfortunately that is often the case (again until you gain some seniority). There are what are called “commutable trips” that start later in the day and/or finish early. That will allow a pilot to leave and return home the same day they’re actually flying but those are obviously very desirable and therefore go senior. Until a pilot can hold the those trips they often have to leave a day early and return home a day late. While the airlines don’t cover the cost of commuting pilot’s can jumpseat on virtually every airline for free so that’s usually not an issue. The pilot will have to find a place to stay when they get there. The airlines provide hotels while on a trip but not before and after. Hotels can get expensive so most pilots get some sort of shared accommodations (aka Crash pads).


(Elaine W) #5


That makes sense. Thanks for the info. How do pilots usually go about finding a group to join in on a crash pad?



Crashpad info is pretty easy to find. Typically there will be advertisements posted in the crew rooms or at the training center. In Newark alone there are dozens of crash pads to chose from with monthly prices ranging from $165 to $350 depending on how nice of one you are looking for. I always go with the cheaper option as all I am looking for is a clean, safe place to sleep for the night.


(Ryan Hollman) #7

Have you seen I can’t verify the accuracy of it, but it appears to be a nice one stop look at domiciles and airlines, majors, legacy, cargo, regionals that are based at US airports. I don’t know who created it or maintains it, but it seems like a good place to start.


(Elaine W) #8

Thanks @Chris and @ryanh9!

(Elaine W) #9


Your mention of the JetBlue base in Florida raised one other question- do you think the new JetBlue pilot training program will make it even more difficult for pilots who didn’t go through that program to get hired at that particular airline?



While that JetBlue program will produce a few pilots it is a rather small program that in its current state will not begin to cover the need at JetBlue. I personally don’t think the program will be around for long, but you never know.




I’m with Chris on this one. The program has been rolled out on a very small scale in an effort to help JetBlue supplement their normal hiring in light of the pilot shortage. If it continues I really don’t see it impacting their normal hiring in the least.


(Joe Brown) #12

Once promoted to captain, are you put at the most junior base again?
If so is 5 years a reasonable time to get put at a base with higher seniority?



That depends. Did you upgrade asap or did you wait? Some pilots want that 4th stripe as soon as they can get it. If that’s the case than yes you’ll be a very junior Capt and you’ll go to the most junior Capt base. Others are not in hurry. They value their quality of life and will wait to upgrade until they can hold the base (or schedule or airplane) they want.

As for a time frame I believe Chris already addressed you regarding the fact that there is literally no way to put a number on these things and he was correct. So to answer your question regarding is 5yrs a reasonable amount of time the answer is yes, no or maybe depending on many many factors.


(Joe Brown) #14

Thanks adam