Changing bases and commuting


Is it common for a pilot to have to change bases many times over their career (especially when upgrading from FO to Captain; or when they transition from a regional to major airline)? If so, does that typically mean that this pilot would have to move to their new base in order to avoid commuting? I’ve been hearing everywhere that commuting should be avoided at all costs… So from my perspective it looks like a pilot may have to move to a new city every few years if they change bases in order to have a better QOL. What if living in that particular city doesn’t really sound appealing…? Is commuting as a major airline pilot any easier than commuting as a regional pilot?
I appreciate your input!


Use the search function at the top of the screen. There are dozens of discussions on this topic. Quality of life is a relative thing. Being very senior in Detroit but staying as a First Officer (passing up a promotion) may provide a less money but a much better schedule. Taking the promotion to Captain might mean more money, but having to move bases to NYC and either move your home there or commute every day (less family/personal time, maybe less favorable schedules).

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As Phillip said there are many threads on the subject. But really yours is a very difficult question to answer as there are many factors that can affect it.

I lived and was based in NY. NY was home and were I wanted to be. What I learned is unless you’re from NY, most people didn’t share my affection for it which made NY an easy base to get and hold. If you live in someplace that’s more popular and you’re junior, things probably won’t be so easy. Additionally does where you live have an airport that’s a base for both Regional and Major airlines? If so will you get hired by both? Again many factors.

Finally commuting is commuting. No one likes it and it’s never easy.


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Typically pilots do not change bases, unless they are constantly chasing an aircraft type or seeking a slightly better schedule. Those who live in base generally stay in that base and bases do not open and close terribly often, but it does happen. I have been based in EWR for all fifteen years of my career.

Commuting as a major airline pilot is no different than commuting as a regional pilot. I have commuted my entire career. It takes up time, is stressful and costs money. I would avoid commuting at all costs.



Can you explain a deadhead? I’ve seen it mentioned in other threads and see them on the schedules but I’m not 100% on the particulars…do you put yourself on a DH? Does the company put you on one for rest/strictly to get you somewhere? Is it paid? Is it the same as jump seating?


Deadheading is when a pilot is traveling “on duty” but not actually operating the flight. This is generally done if a trip begins or ends somewhere other than your base. You have a reserved seat and are getting paid for the flight (at most airlines the same as if you were flying it). You’re also again “on duty” so no alcohol as you’re an additional crewmember.

Jumpseating is you yourself trying to get somewhere (work, home, vacation, etc). JSing is on you. You’re not on duty, you’ve got to figure out which flight, where, on who and you’re definitely not getting paid.



The term “deadhead” actually comes from the railroad industry. It means an engine that is “dead” (non-powered) that is being pulled as part of a train, typically at the “head” or front of the train.

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I actually work for the railroad, we now call dead heading when we’re transporting between terminals in a van rather than a train or when a crew who is usually “dead on the hours of service” is riding on the second, non operating engine going from terminal to terminal…but it’s good to know where the term originated :+1:t2:

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