Real Answers from Real Pilots

Dating/Marriage to a Pilot

Hello all,
My name is Elaine and I am new to the forum, but have found it incredibly useful already. Thanks for all the trustworthy and reliable info! I am not a pilot, nor aspiring to be a pilot, but my boyfriend is currently looking into flight training and financing options for the near future. I want to know all about the industry so that I can better support him and help him to develop a solid plan when he pursues this dream.

I have read a lot of threads, both on this forum as well as others, about maintaining a home life while living the pilot’s lifestyle. On this forum specifically, the perspective is coming from the pilot’s themselves. For the pilots, you get to live your dreams while at work, so maybe the time alone seems like less of a burden, but what do your partners have to say about extended time alone at home? Do any of your wives, girlfriends, significant others have some insight? What can they say about the sacrifices made to be in a relationship with a pilot?

I’ve read stories from partners both very happy with the lifestyle, as well as plenty of horror stories. I appreciate the info on this particular forum though, and believe that it may provide with the most straight-forward and honest answers.

Thanks again and happy flying!

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Elaine,

Welcome to the forum and thinks for the detailed introduction, it really helps us to know how we can best answer your questions. Also, thank you for the compliments, it is good to know that our forum is perceived well and that you find the information helpful.

I don’t believe that we have any spouses/girlfriends on this forum, so I will have to answer your questions as best I can.

The job can be a little tough on relationships and not everybody likes it. There can sometimes be a perception that the pilot is out jaunting around the country while the spouse is stuck at home with the children, some people can grow to resent this. However, that really isn’t the case and the spouses that realize that seem to have much healthier relationships. Flying is hard work, it is late nights, early mornings and long days doing a job that requires a good amount of concentration and attention to detail. Sure, there is the occasional Cancun overnight, but for everyone of those there are several that are in airport hotels that are just long enough to catch some sleep. The spouse that realizes this and appreciates it will have a healthier marriage.

Yes, the job involves a fair amount of time away from home. I worked 16 days last month, but then I had 14 off. That was 14 days completely free of any obligations, time that I could spend 100% of my day with my family. I feel that is a lot more time than a business man working M-F has with his. The vacation time at the airlines is excellent. So while you might have your boyfriend gone on trips a fair portion of the month, when he is home you will have more quality time with him.

I hope this helps answer your question. Feel free to follow up on any of these points or to bring up new ones.

Chris

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Elaine,

Honestly I’ve seen it go either way. It definitely takes patience and understanding from both parties. As much as it’s hard the pilot is away from home, it’s also hard being away. I missed far too many little league games, school plays etc and you can never get that time back. On the flip side my family has been able to see the world and have experiences many only dream of. Trust is critical as well. You don’t want to be worrying about what he’s doing while he’s away (as far as my wife knows ALL flight attendants are married and VERY ugly) and he doesn’t want to be worried about what you’re doing at home while he’s away. On the positive as Chris said when he’s off, he’s off. There’s no homework etc and often you can get many days off in a row so you can get some excellent quality time together and home projects can usually get banged out fast.

It can definitely be challenging. As I said I’ve seen it go both ways. If you truly love and trust eachother you’ll be fine. BUT, if there are problems or underlying issues they will without a doubt be exposed and expedite the erosion of your relationship. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?

Adam

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Thanks for the insight @Adam and @Chris, it has definitely been helpful! To follow up on my previous question, how do you handle planning things in advance with your families and friends when you receive your monthly flight schedules on such short notice? Does that become a hardship for you?

At United we receive our schedules on the 17th of the month prior, meaning that I will receive my December schedule on November 17th. I have always found that to be plenty of notice to schedule family events, doctors appointments, etc. I believe that some airlines get their schedules even earlier.

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That’s good to know. While I am sure it may be difficult to plan for things far in advance, like holidays a few months away, at least you have a decent amount of time to plan for the upcoming month. thanks again!

I’ve been doing this a while and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Although pilots LOVE to complain and tell their horror stories with a little planning and creativity most events are doable. Advanced notice is always a good thing. So first if I know way in advance (big birthday, graduation, wedding etc) you can bid you vacation over that time and as long as it’s not Christmas or New Years often you can get it. Also at Hawaiian we can break up our vacations into single days so I always keep a few in my back pocket to use for emergencies and as long as the day is available AND the next month’s bid hasn’t come out you can use those. Next if it’s somewhat last minute you can always try and trade a trip or advertise the trip and maybe someone will help you out. Last resort is having good friends that’ll help you out. Every pilot has this problem at some point or another so if a friend calls and asks hey I need this day off can we swap or can you just take this trip, a smart friend will ALWAYS help cause then they owe you when it’s your turn. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Btw, (and I probably shouldn’t be telling you this) but pilots are also REALLY good at using this whole “terrible” scheduling thing to their advantage. I never got along with my in-laws and Thanksgiving was always at their house. Even when I was SUPER senior at ExpressJet, and literally could have ANY schedule I wanted, for some reason I could never ever get Thanksgiving off? “I’m really sorry honey but…”. :wink:

Adam

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Haha that’s clever! I’ll have to keep that little trick in mind, and pass it along to my boyfriend. It is nice to hear from you both that the schedule can be managed with some planning, as lots of stories I’ve read online are very gloom and doom. It is reassuring to hear your perspectives. Thanks again!

Great information and insight! Thanks guys!

Adam,

I am curious about swapping trips,as you discussed. How does this work? Do you and another pilot with the same equipment rating and position, e.g. 2 737 FOs, agree to a swap or a pick up and just call it into scheduling? Is there some sort of approval required on the airline’s part? I’m assuming the credit for the hours go to the pilot in the air. While working in restaurants we were able to do the same thing, often with only hours notice, presuming you and the other server were around the same skill level. I never imagined the airlines would be as flexible about getting coverage for short notice issues like this.

Carl

Carl,

At Horizon, two pilots can swap trips online without approval from
management. Pilots verify that the swap will not violate any flight time or
duty requirements prior to the swap. And a scheduling department verifies
that both pilots remain in the legal limits.

I actually just swapped the trip I’m on right now so that another FO can
fly his son tomorrow :blush:

Carl,

Yes 2 pilots can agree to swap trips. As Tory said the company doesn’t get involved beyond the system verifying it’s legal so it must go through the companies scheduling system. Much more common however is to swap trips with something in “open time”. These are “extra” trips that show up due to changes, swaps, sick calls, whatever. I am literally the King of the Trip Trades! In my mind there’s ALWAYS a better trip out there (better overnight, better crew, more money, gets done sooner). I actually pay an extra $10 a month to get text alerts whenever a new trip shows up in open time. Again as long as your legal for it AND there’s coverage on the day you’re looking to drop (if the trip isn’t for the same days) it’s yours.

Adam

Carl,

At United we saw trips frequently, but generally with open time trips and not with other pilots. Almost all of the trading is done through a web based system and done on a seniority driven basis.

Chris

So it sounds like, if I understand, you can take a trip you don’t want for whatever reason and release it for another that is floating in the system with no one attached. Is that correct? Wouldn’t someone who is sitting reserve for the month be able to build themselves a line out of this system? Alternatively it seems like you could build up extra hours for a fatter pay check this way too. I’m a bit curious how this all works.

Carl

Carl,

Ideally when crew scheduling builds the lines every month there should be no uncovered trips. Unfortunately with the number of pilots, trips, flight hours that seldom if every happens. Generally the trips for one reason or another just don’t fit together right, overlap etc. so there are always some. Now even if a line could be built after the lines are made a Reserve pilot cannot pickup any trips or build themselves a line. The intent of having pilots on Reserve is to have spares around in the event of delays, sick calls or other unforeseen events.

Now picking up open time to increase your pay is a common practice and one I do often.

Adam

Carl,

I don’t think I’m following you on your catch and release analogy. Maybe this will help clarify. If a trip is assigned to you you can’t drop it for another one without getting someone else to pick up the trip you dropped.

I don’t have any reserve experience yet (which is a good problem to have) but I think you’re right. A reserve pilot can pick up trips to fill their schedule if they want. Not the best way to make a schedule. What if there aren’t any trips available to be picked up? Hope you have enough money saved to absorb that vacancy.

Tory,

Perhaps it it’s different at Horizon but most airlines do not permit Reserves to pick up trips. If all the Reserves pick up trips than there are no Reserves and that just don’t work. Now if you’re on Reserve and get assigned a trip you can’t get out of it BUT if you’re a lineholder and there’s a better trip in open time you can trade away.

Adam

At United reserves can pick up trips the day prior, if it meets certain criteria. So a reserve pilot can essentially build themselves a line, but only a day or so in advance.

Just kinda curious, what is the length on reserve like at UAL for new hires right now? Is it similar to the regionals or a bit longer?

Thank you for the clarification