A little over a year ago, I was just beginning training with SkyWest Airlines. Now I have just finished my training with Spirit Airlines and hold an A320-type rating. There have been a lot of changes in the industry over the past few years, and there are I get so many questions about life at the airlines. I would like to take a second and give an inside view of airline life for anyone considering this as a career option. I am going to write a series of articles about this topic.
First off, if I could do everything over again, I’d still make this my career. I love to fly. I love my job. This doesn’t mean there aren’t issues – every job has its unique problems.
TIME AWAY FROM HOME
At SkyWest Airlines, I typically had 11 days off per month. Sometimes I had 12. When I was commuting to Chicago, I was home even less, maybe 5 or 6 days per month. This was terrible. As someone who doesn’t enjoy traveling TOO much, I got sick of this fast.
This is mainly why I choose to go to Spirit. Every airline has a unique set of work rules, and I valued my personal time more than money. Spirit pilots average 17 days off per month at home. This is an insane increase from my previous experience. However, since I am back at the bottom of the seniority list, I will have to commute from Dallas to Houston for a while. Even then, the increase in quality of life is going to be fantastic.
At SkyWest, they guaranteed two days off between every work block. Most of my schedule was four or five days at work followed by two days off. At Spirit, we are guaranteed FOUR days off between every work block. Every airline is different, and there are many other rules that come into play that contribute to time at home, quality of life, pay, etc.
If you are worried about time away from home as an airline pilot, just know that it is heavily dependent on which airline you go to!
Some places only give their pilots 8 days off per month guaranteed. SouthWest guarantees 15 days off per month. Others make you be away from home for weeks at a time, while others average 4 days away at a time.
From what I have experienced so far, even at SkyWest, my overall time at home was similar to working a 40h per week job. Now that I am at Spirit, this should greatly increase.
What I like most about my time off is that I get full days off to do anything I want. And it is not uncommon to get blocks of days off without having to use vacation time. This is incredibly valuable to me.
Last year, I was able to go on several vacations (3-4 day trips) without having to use any vacation time.
Let’s say you like to be home every single night. Believe it or not, there are several airlines that make this possible. Allegiant is one of them. As long as you live in the same city you are based, every trip is a day trip. Speaking of day trips, Spirit has a wide variety of trips, and some of the more senior guys can bid for a schedule to be home every single night.
In the end, figure out what you value most, then build your aviation career around that. Especially in today’s world with a massive pilot shortage, you can choose where you want to be and what you want to fly.