Commuting AND on Reserve

Hi All,

I know these two subjects have been discussed a lot already on this forum, but I was wondering if any of the pilot mentors had any personal experience, particularly as an extremely junior pilot new with the company, with both being a reserve pilot AND having to commute to base for work. I have a few specific questions that I’m certain has answers that vary greatly and all depend on airline/city of base, but I’ll ask anyway:

  • How difficult is it to get in on a crash pad and what is the crash pad experience like?
  • If you don’t have to be physically at the airport, how do you occupy yourself and find things to do in a city you don’t live in and maybe don’t know very well?
  • Did you have much difficulty getting on a flight or flights to get to work?
  • Anything else that stood out or surprised you during life and work during such a season?

I am hopefully just a few quick months away from the opportunity of being hired by an airline and while I am extremely excited to get my career at an airline started I am also bracing myself for this possibility at the start and was wondering if there were any personal experiences and/or advice to be shared for this situation.


I happen to b just the person to answer your question. I upgraded to Captain about four years ago and have been on and off reserve for about half of that time. Being a junior Captain is exactly the same as being a junior co-pilot when it comes to this sort of stuff. I am based in Newark (EWR), but live in Suffolk, Virginia, which is near Norfolk (ORF).

Getting into a crashpad is not difficult, as long as you are based at a large airport. If you find yourself based in some place like Charleston, West Virginia, it might be hard, but there re usually pretty good crashpads around most major airports. You will see flyers in the crew room, but also just ask your other pilot friends. Rates can be anywhere form $200-$00 per month.

I spend a fair amount of time on short call reserve, which means I have to be within three hours of the airport, so basically in NJ. I read a lot of books, walk around the neighborhood, workout, and sometimes take the train to different towns to grad lunch or walk there. Rainy or cold days canoe a bit more challenging, so be prepared with some Hulu for those days.

I am pretty lucky in that there are not many commuting pilots from Norfolk, so I can almost always get the jumpseat. It used to be harder as there were more pilots and I would sometimes end up having to go to LGA or JFK and take the bus back to EWR.

My biggest piece of advice is to not be a long term commuter. If you have to do it for a few months, fine. Just do not set yourself up to commute as a career. It might sound easy as a young pilot, but it will wear on you over time.



Thank you for the quick and helpful response, Chris!

Good to know crash pads seem fairly cheap, but I’m sure there’s also other finances that go into that as well like food and other household essentials. Also good advice to only do it for a few months and try and keep it temporary rather than base your entire career around commuting.

For my specific situation, I would like to fly for Horizon as one of their bases is Spokane, WA (GEG) which is where I live and would like to stay, but I have heard it’s common for junior FOs at Horizon getting assigned Medford, OR (MFR) or Boise, ID (BOI) to start. I have been to and actually quite enjoy both of those cities, but I don’t really intend on moving there and would hope a transfer to GEG wouldn’t be too far down the road if I did get assigned one of those bases at the beginning.


While I fortunately never had to commute, I know many pilots who have and I did a considerable amount of research when I came close. Here’s my 2 cents:

  1. Crash pad is a very broad term. I’ve seen hotels offer them with of 4 sets of bunk beds, a single bath, and no kitchen or living room. They’re setup simply as a place to sleep. On the other side 4 pilots get together a rent a beautiful apt that’s nicer than their own homes. Then there’s everything in between. Obviously the cost will vary widely but if there’s an airport and a pilot base there will be crashpads.

  2. I know pilots who are out and about doing everything they would do at home to those that stay in and play Xbox all day. Totally up to you what you do. It’s really the same on overnights. When I get to a city I’ve never been in I start Googling things I need to see, do, eat, etc. Sadly I know people who just lock themselves in their rooms and eat in the hotel.

  3. Really depends on where you’re commuting from, who flies there, time of year, time of day…

  4. I’ve heard many commuting horror stories and I’m very happy to be able to never have done it.