Real Answers from Real Pilots

Changing jobs

Hello, I am interested in this profession because my son is in flight school. I have some questions about what he can expect once he starts working (after he has his ATP certificate). From what I have read so far, I expect he will be hired by a regional airline and be placed on short call reserve to start.

What about his home base? Will he be allowed to choose this (or state a preference) or will he most likely have to go wherever they send him, meaning commute by plane to another city? Is the choice of a home base available only to pilots with seniority? If he wants to live near NY, for example, should he apply for jobs only at regionals that have a domicile in NY, hoping to eventually hold a line from NY?

Also, what happens to his seniority if he flies for one airline, then they go out of business, and then he gets a job at a different airline? Does he start at the bottom of the seniority ladder again? I imagine so. Do the airlines every grant at least partial seniority (or at least adjust their pay) to someone based on their experience?

Thanks.

Lora,

First I have to say while we welcome everyone to this forum these really are questions your son should be asking OR be able to answer for you as he should know exactly what he’s getting himself into. That said let’s get you some answers.

I think it’s fairly obvious that if your son (or you) desire him to be based near home you have to chose an airline that does in fact have bases near you, in this case NY. You can check this link for what airline is where: https://pilotjobs.atpflightschool.com/airline-domiciles/ Now as you’ve seemed to have figured out SENIORITY is key in virtually EVERYTHING when it comes to the airlines including bases. When you son is first hired he’ll be sent to where the airline needs him. As he builds seniority he’ll then be able to bid and hopefully get awarded the base of his choice. This could take months, could take years. The good news for you is that NY is traditionally very junior when it comes to pilot bases due to the high cost of living and fact NY is scary to everyone who isn’t from there :wink: (I’m from the Bronx btw).

One of the single worse aspects of this industry (IMHO) is the fact there is no “Master” seniority list. Leave your Regional for another or for a Major and it’s back to the bottom. There is no partial anything. You could be a SENIOR 747 Capt for a Major airline with 30yrs experience. If your company goes under and you get hired the next day by another airline you will have a lower seniority than the brand new 20yo flight instructor who was hired the day before. Now due to the current pilot shortage there are a couple of Regionals (non-union) who will honor seniority for someone coming from another Regional but that the except not the rule and there’s no guarantee they’ll have a desirable base etc.

Adam

Lora,

I also noticed your other post regarding time to the Majors. What you and your son need to understand is there are absolutely no guarantees a pilot will make it to the Majors. The Majors are the “Big Time” and not everyone is chosen. I know people who’ve gotten there in a couple of years, 10 yrs and sadly I know some really good pilots who seemingly will never get the call. Bust a view checkrides, get a blemish on your record (DUI, excessive traffic violation history etc), have an incident, have a bad attitude or get a bad reputation at your Regional and you could have a very hard time. Then there are people who simply interview very poorly. I recently met a pilot who’s been flying for a Regional. Before the Regional he was a Colonel and Marine fighter pilot. He’s interviewed at a few Majors (including mine) and nothing. I did some investigating I they just didn’t like him, end of story.

I’m not trying to dissuade or paint a bad picture but I do think it’s very important everyone knows exactly what they’re getting into. Your son should be doing this because he simply loves to fly and would like to do this for a living. Be professional, conscientious, work hard and have a great attitude and he should do well but again there are no guarantees.

Adam

Thank you Adam for your reply. I know my son will figure this out for himself, but I just want to be educated about it myself, so as to be able to talk about it intelligently with him. My son knows what he is getting into, as far as a 17 year old knows about things. I am looking more at the long view.

It’s good to hear that NY is junior because people are scared of going there if they are not from there (I used to live in the Bronx actually). You made me laugh with that because I am originally from southern Italy and some Italians are scared to go there. A friend of mine is from Israel and has asked me to visit there, but I am scared to go there too! It is all a matter of what you are used to I suppose.

I understand that not everyone makes it to the majors, because of the reasons you describe. In the same way, not everyone makes it to the top of their profession, whatever their profession may be. One very positive thing is that the regional salaries have gone up, and jobs are available there, and will continue to be available for some time, from what I read. It seems to be that working at a regional, with an upgrade to Captain in a few years, and accruing seniority after that, he could have a good salary and a good quality of life as well. And he could fly, which he loves. So that is all reassuring to me.

Thanks so much for your input. I appreciate it.