Commuting Flight Attendant
What is a commuting flight attendant? A commuting flight attendant is a flight attendant that does not live in the city which they are based, so they “commute”. But flight attendants don’t commute like everyone else, you know on a car, a bus, or a train. Flight attendants that commute fly to work.
I know it’s a strange concept for most of the world to believe because non aviation people are always surprised when I tell them how I get to work.
I spent years commuting from Honolulu to San Francisco and when my kids were little, I would commute home up to six times a month. I’d go home for a few hours just to tuck them into bed if I could.
Commuting that much was like having a second job. These days I still commute, but my commute isn’t as far, and I only commute once or twice a month.
When you want something bad enough, you will figure out a way to make it work.
Are You Willing To Relocate?
When most airlines ask if you are “willing to relocate” it doesn’t mean relocate to one place forever.
One of the flight attendant requirements is being willing to relocate. But flight attendants transfer bases all the time.
Most flight attendants start out on reserve, and while commuting is doable, you probably won’t be home as much in the beginning of your career.
If you have a family, and the family is onboard for relocation, that’s great. But if not, you can still keep your life, but now you will have two.
Commuting flight attendants kind of live a “double life”. They have one life at home with their family, and that other life as a flight attendant. Sleeping in hotels, living out of a suitcase, and most likely staying in a crash pad.
The double life makes it easier to be away from home while you work, see the world, and provide for your family.
Commuting As A Flight Attendant
Commuting as a flight attendant is easier once you are off of flight attendant reserve. You can put all your trips together, work and then go home. Or, you can commute once a week, twice a month, whatever works for you.
If you have an “easy commute” that is nice and short, you can commute more often. But if you live more than a few hours away by flight, you may want to commute less.
Some things that making commuting as a flight attendant difficult:
- Destination – Popular tourist destinations are difficult to commute in and out of
- Double commute – If you have to take two flights to get to work or home
- Seniority – If you are new flight attendant without much seniority, all those senior to you go ahead of you on the list
- Other commuters – If there are a lot of other commuters, especially flight attendants it can be hard to get a seat, and all the flight attendant jump seats may already be taken
Jumpseat Agreements For Commuting Flight Attendants
Some airlines have agreements that you can fly for free on other carriers for commuting flight attendants. This works out great if you live near a hub for another airline that has multiple flights per day to your base.
For example, if you are a flight attendant working for United Airlines based in Newark, but live in Charlotte North Carolina you may not even be able to get to work on a United flight.
United only flies RJ Jets going to Newark from Charlotte, as opposed to flying on American Airlines who’s using bigger aircrafts en route to Newark almost every hour. The reason for that? Charlotte is a hub for American Airlines, so they have more flights on larger airplanes out of that airport.
Commuting flight attendants get really creative to get back and forth from work. If you want to be a flight attendant and not completely relocate to your base city, you can find a way to commute that works for you.
How To Commute As A Flight Attendant
As a commuting flight attendant there are different ways you can get to work, you can:
Create your listing – Each airline has their own internal system for employees to list for the ‘non rev’ (non revenue) standby travel. Standby is exactly what it sounds like. You get added to the standby list and hope that your name is called for a seat. (Or wait to see a seat assignment next to your name on the airline app.) 😉
You will be listed in seniority order (at most airlines), and that’s how the extra seats are awarded.
I’m always preaching that if you want to be a flight attendant, sooner is always better because of seniority. This is one of the many times as a flight attendant that seniority is your best friend. The more seniority you have, the easier it is to commute.
List for the jumpseat – If you can’t get a seat in the cabin, you may be able to get a flight attendant jumpseat.
This works out great because the only employees in the company that can list for the extra jumpseats in the main cabin are the flight attendants.
Pilots can list for the jumpseat too, but they have their own jumpseats and they don’t occupy the flight attendant jumpseats and we don’t occupy theirs.
Buy a ticket – If the seats are looking iffy, and you may not get a jumpseat, there is another thing you can do and that’s buy a ticket.
I buy tickets as a flight attendant. Most airlines offer their employees discounted ticket prices. If you are commuting around the holidays, spring break, or any other time the flights are looking full, save yourself the hassle and purchase a ticket.
Buying a ticket helps too because revenue passengers are also often on the standby list, and paying customers come before employee free travel obviously.
If you are a member of the airline’s reward program, you can rack up some miles by purchasing tickets and by using your airline credit card which is also an advantage.
Sure, I’ve bought tickets only to find that the flight wasn’t full. But for the peace of mind I get knowing I had a confirmed seat to work? That is priceless.
How Do Flight Attendants Commute To Their Base?
Depending on the how full and how often the flights go each day from a flight attendant’s home airport to base determines how much time is needed to commute to their base.
Living in Hawaii and traveling forward in time to California, I almost always would have to commute the day before my trip.
A lot can happen and a lot of things can go wrong on your commute like cancellations, mechanical delays, weather delays, or any other problem that can happen at a moments notice.
Not to mention Hawaii is one of the most difficult commutes system wide. It’s not too difficult to get to Hawaii as a non rev, but it can be really difficult to get back to the mainland and I have no idea why.
Some flight attendants may be working a late trip and don’t have a far commute with lots of flights between their home airport and the airport where they are based. For that type of situation, flight attendants can commute in the day of their trip.
If you live on the East coast and commute to the West coast you may even sometimes be able to commute the day of your trip too. When you travel East to West you go back in time and that helps a lot. Going home you are losing time, but at least getting to work you have a few extra bonus hours to get there.
Commuter Policy American Airlines
If you would like to commute as an American Airlines flight attendant, they have a decent commuter policy.
In order for the commuter policy to remain in place, flight attendants must be designated as commuters via the company intranet and list from an airport that is served by American Airlines or its wholly owned carriers.
American Airlines Commuter Policy:
If the Flight Attendant’s first scheduled commuting flight cancels or is delayed as a result of weather, mechanical, company convenience, or the equipment is downgraded within 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure, and the next scheduled flight that the commuter is listed on for travel cancels as a result of weather, mechanical, company convenience, equipment downgrades prior to the scheduled departure, the flight is delayed for at least thirty minutes, or the flight is full:
- -Crew scheduling has the option to be split back on the original trip (to fly the portion they can)
- -Assign the flight attendant to a comparable trip (similar amount of days as the original trip)
- -Release the flight attendant from duty and drop the original sequence, making up the hours, if possible
The first three unable to commute instances will not result in discipline or be dependability infractions as long as the flight attendant has the proper documentation to show their supervisor within 7 days.
Commuter Policy United Airlines
Untied Airlines has a nice commuter program for flight attendants. The program is quite comprehensive, but we will focus on the part of the program that allows flight attendants to list for two flights prior to the beginning of their assignment.
“When an unforeseen event takes place (e .g ., no available seat, weight restriction, delay or cancellation due to unforeseen significant weather at the intended airport of departure or arrival, ATC or aircraft maintenance), affecting the Flight Attendant’s first commuting flight, she/he must immediately contact Crew Scheduling .
A Flight Attendant commuting by air will notify Crew Scheduling that they will be utilizing the back-up flight immediately upon discovering that she/he is unable to commute using the primary flight, regardless of the reason for such inability .
The flight attendant shall also recontact Crew Scheduling immediately upon discovering that they will be unable to commute on her/his back-up flight . In the case where a Flight Attendant is physically onboard their first or back-up flight and the flight diverts in route, the Flight Attendant shall call Crew Scheduling as soon as she/he can make a telephone call.
Upon notification to Crew Scheduling, the Flight Attendant shall continue on to their Base if possible, unless released by Crew Scheduling/ Coordination . Upon arrival at their Base, the Flight Attendant shall promptly contact Crew Scheduling/Coordination to advise them that she/he is there . She/he will be subject to assignment, as follows:
- They may be assigned to a portion of the original pairing, joining it at a later point; or
- They may be assigned a substitute pairing scheduled to fly on the same days as the original pairing; or they may be assigned a substitute pairing.
I used both American & United’s flight attendant commuter policies so that you can see they are quite similar, but not exactly.
United’s commuter policy is actually better because there is no limit on how often you can use the commuter program, where American limits their flight attendant’s to use the policy only three times. Not only that, but you don’t have to list as a commuter at United Airlines like at American.
Airlines know that flight attendants commute. So if you were considering becoming a commuting flight attendant but where not sure how difficult it would be, you can see that because of the policies in place, not only is commuting possible as a flight attendant, it’s also quite manageable.
Commuting Flight Attendant FAQs
Can You Commute As A Flight Attendant?
You can definitely commute as a flight attendant. As a reserve flight attendant commuting is a little more difficult because you only know the days you work in advance, not the trips you are going to be working.
As a reserve flight attendant you need to be in base for all of your reserve days. Unlike flight attendants who hold a line of flying, they can commute home after each trip if that is something they would like to do.
What Does It Mean To Commute As A Flight Attendant?
What it means to commute as a flight attendant is that you fly to work. Flight attendants work from their base, not just any airport that they want. So, even if a flight attendant has an airport close to home, if their base isn’t at that airport they need to “commute” before beginning an assignment.
Can A Flight Attendant Live Anywhere?
Flight attendants do live all over the world, even in different countries than where they are based, but they do need to have flights that can connect them easily to their base or it’s too much effort.
I wouldn’t want to live two or three airports and a train ride away from my base. It would be too much trouble to get to and from work.
However, airlines do have multiple bases so you can usually find a way to commute to work from almost anywhere.
Do Airlines Pay For Commuting?
No, airlines do not pay flight attendants to commute.
Can I Commute While On Reserve?
You can, but as a reserve you will be need to be in position (at your base) prior to the start of your reserve period. As a reserve, you will need either an apartment or a crash pad
American Airlines fired 50 reserve flight attendants for not being in position at the start of their reserve period. Why would they gamble? Because reserves don’t always get used, and they took a chance they wouldn’t get called.
Where do you stay as a commuting flight attendant?
As a commuting flight attendant you can stay at a hotel, at a crash pad, or even with a roommate or your own part time apartment in the city where you are based.
So there you have it, the commuting flight attendant and the fascinating way we get to work. What do you think? Are you a commuting flight attendant or do think you may commute in the future? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.