Commuting from HNL

Hi everyone,

I suppose @Adam is the best one to answer this, but I would appreciate everyone’s feedback if they have a moment.

What is the practicality of living in Hawaii and flying for a regional on the mainland?

It seems there are many, many flights from HNL on a daily basis. Mainland domicile would obviously play a role, but if I could secure SFO or LAX (depending on the airline), then I was thinking it might work.

I am from Hawaii originally, and still have family and friends there. My wife loves the islands, and would happily move back. Of course, cost of living is an issue we are well aware of.

Have a great day!


Commuting to/from Hawaii can be a challenge, especially during high tourist seasons, ie summer, spring, and holidays. I lived in Hawaii for 8 years and did the commute. You will spend many more days on the road as you have to commute a day early and return a day late to make it work. I loved Hawaii as well, but eventually the extra commute, cost (real estate and private school) and hassle was not worth it while my kids were entering middle/high school so we decided to return to the mainland for the time being.

It is more practicable if you work for an airline that has service as you will get priority on using the jump seat. Working for a regional, you will always be prioritized as an OAL (other air line) for using the jumpseat which means you go behind all of that carriers pilots who are standing by for that jumpseat(s). Still can happen but much less predictable than if you work for the airline because many airlines let you reserve your own company’s jump seat a few days in advance which makes your commute much more predictable.

That commute will also effect your ability to pick up extra/premium flying. I would strongly consider finding a domicile local to your first regional job, save money and make your big move to Hawaii once you’ve secured your forever job. You’ll make more money, be able to advance faster, save your marriage/family strife, minimize your daily hassles and enjoy more free time other than inside of a metal tube.

PS: When I did the commute, the prominent jet between HNL and other locals was usually at least a 757 in size. With the proliferation of the 737 serving the islands I shudder just thinking about having to commute on that JS on a monthly basis!


Practicality is an interesting word and is somewhat subjective. It’s it doable? Yes and I know pilots who have and do. Do they like it? Not at all.

Commuting is a choice and your responsibility is not only to get to work on time, it’s to get to work well rested and ready to fly. While there are many flights from HNL, they’re often full which means 5-6 hrs in the jumpseat. Time wise many of the flights don’t work with early starts so that’ll mean you’ll lose a day off on each end. You’ll also need to figure I’m the expense of a crashpad or hotels.

Possible yes but practical is your call.



Yes, it is possible to commute from HNL to the mainland, but keep in mind that there are MANY pilots who do this, plus people going on vacation. You will have significant competition for seats and the jumpseat and as a regional pilot, your priority will be lower for those seats than a mainline pilot.

But yes, many people do manage this commute, but it will take significant time from your days off.


Hi Hobie,

Wow… thank you so much for the detailed reply. I truly appreciate the helpful hand that everyone here on the forums is willing to give to others who are just starting out. Information that would take years to figure out, freely offered here. Thanks!

I really appreciate your first-hand experience of being a commuter from HNL!

Where in Hawaii did you live?

It sounds like there are plenty of pilots who commute from Hawaii, but that the caveat is that they do it later in their career when they have the seniority needed to hold a strong line as well as some seniority in getting a seat on their own airline back to the mainland.

Thanks again,

Hi Adam,

I laughed when you chose to characterize practical as being subjective. I think you and I would get along just fine discussing things like that. Maybe one day!

Anyway, as you and others have said, while it is doable, whether it is wise or not is another matter. I suppose just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Looks like it would be better to build seniority on the mainland and then put in for Hawaiian and hope for the best. We don’t get what we don’t try for.

Safe flying and eat some loco moco for me!


Hi Chris,

Thanks, again, for your advice and real-world spin on things like this. I see in reading the forums that you generally recommend against commuting, which I am sure comes from years of experience in doing so.

I appreciate your putting in the perspective of it taking significant time out of your off days. After all, that is one of the attractions of a piloting career; plenty of days off.

Thanks again,

I lived in Kailua and we loved it. It was expensive then, and has only gone up since. We didn’t have any Ohana in the islands, but made many close family friends in the 8 yrs I lived there. Nothing beats being able to walk over to Kailua beach for the afternoon to finish the day.
But life is a series of compromises and there is no such place as Utopia. The good news in this career is you have a choice on where to live, the bad news is you have a choice on where to live.
Best of luck,

Hi Hobie,

Oh yes, Kailua is a great place. I grew up nearby in Kaneohe.

We miss the islands. Life has a much simpler vibe; people are kinder. But as you said, the cost of living has become nearly impossible for ordinary people to afford.

Life is indeed a series of compromises. We are lucky in some ways, as my wife works as a consultant online, so that helps, and makes it easier to be flexible in where we go.

Thanks for sharing!