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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Commuting on Reserve

Yesterday I received an email with questions that I have both an opinion and the experience to answer! Ha Ha ... the reserve commuting queen that I am.

Daniel said, "I know this is still a year and a half or so away for me but I was wondering if it is even possible for one to commute on reserve. I am from Minneapolis and was hoping to live at home for awhile so that I can get rid of this tremendous debt! I am also hoping for Skywest, and although they have a MSP base, I am not sure how senior it is. This is even further looking, but when in my regional career should I apply to Delta? Should I wait until I get min. time that they want or is it better to apply sooner and just keep updating your time? Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions- I enjoy the blog!"
Daniel, I've spent many of my airline years commuting to reserve. Seattle to Anchorage on the 747, Seattle to Detroit on the 744, and most recently to Detroit on the A330.

Did commuting have its challenges? Of course. Time and money. There is nothing more difficult than commuting 5 hours before your 9-hour flight. However I always commuted the night before, and I pulled out the American Express at the Detroit Airport Hilton for a solid sleep before my flight.

The commuting you're talking about should be far easier with the short distance, but this all depends on rules with your airline.

NWA 744 schedulers would call me before I got on the plane to Detroit and tell me I wasn't going to be used, and to stay home. Or they would call me with a trip the night before. My current company I know if I'm being used. Based on the departure times of our east bound flights, I had 3 flights to get to Detroit, and a couple others through MSP. If I'm on short call I sit in base at a hotel as we have a 2 hour report time.

My ability to commute to reserve is based on the fact I fly International and not domestic, and that my plane has late afternoon and evening departures.

Can you commute on reserve?

Absolutely, if the company has a policy of calling you the day before your trip. If you have to be within a 2 hour window to report, that really isn't possible. I suspect Skywest will keep you on a short leash.

I suggest that you live with your parents, and get a crash pad in base for a couple hundred bucks a month. This will be a flash back to your college dorm days, but for saving money, and being on call, that's the only way. The best way.

When should you apply to Delta?

Wait until you have the minimum time. I've heard that Delta is very strict about following the rules when filling out the application. Dot every i and cross every t. Applying without the minimum time, they'll think you can't follow directions.

There was a time when people suggested to apply early and show your interest. This is no longer the case. If you're not qualified, your application will be more of an irritant than a positive notch in your folder. Without being qualified, your folder will be the trash can. I don't know this for a fact, but time is money. If I were running a company, I would be irritated if 10,000 non-qualified pilots sent me their resumes.

Finally, thank you for the nice comment about my blog. :) I knew you were brilliant!

Keep us posted on your progress. A year goes by very quickly.

Enjoy the Journey!



  1. Hey Karlene,
    Thanks for answering the question about commuting-good to know that it is possible! Are crash pads pretty easy to find? Also good to know about Delta- don't want to irritate a potential employer! I can imagine the frustration upon reaching the gate and being told not to fly! At least you don't have to deal with that anymore though-just hop in the car and drive home!
    Thanks for posting-time for me to study for my commercial checkride...ughh

  2. Kar, Although I commuted for years (!) too, it is not the ideal way to go through life.... You end up tired, sick, stressed, etc. Staying senior and in base would be my first (and last!) choice. So many of our peers bid up to the next position as soon as they can barely hold it, then wonder why their life is a mess and their marriage is failing. They go for the "big bucks"and the type rating, but they're never home. Then they get a divorce and lose 50% of everything (including their sense of humor and happiness). So, my advice would be: don't commute if at all possible! But if you have to commute (for many good reasons...)- stay senior!!!

  3. Hey Kathy, you and I know it's not ideal and challenging. The big bucks are a driving force for so many. The greatest pleasure in life is when you figure out, it's not all about the money.

    One thing I realized after wiping myself out across the country is commuting for 2 hours is a piece of cake! The jaunt to and from California feels like a non-event.

    Thanks so much for your comments. Your advice will help many.

    But the bottom line is, when starting out, or the inability to move your family, there are times you just have to suck it up. I think in Dan's case, he's young enough he'll survive for a year or too. But Dan... don't give your life away to prize.

    Thanks for your comment Kathy!

    Thanks so much

  4. Dan, you are very welcome. And... yes, there are so many opportunities to find a commuter crash pad. You won't have a problem there.

  5. Amen to your advice on NOT applying without the minimum stated requirements. In my day job, I deal with large company HR departments. There is nothing more irritating for HR (and recruiters) than dealing with unqualified applicants that they ultimately wasted time on and just rejected anyway.

    PS- Love your blog!!

  6. T.J. Thank you for the heads up with a real life scenario on wasting time with unqualified people. I wasn't sure... but just couldn't imagine.
    And thank you so much for the nice comment about my blog!


Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!