Hey guys, so many people ask about how long it takes to captain a big jet and also just to become a captain in general, but I hardly see any information regarding how long it takes to just get to widebody in general.
I suppose it boils down to 3 parts, how many years at an airline would this usually take, how long does it usually take to become a lineholder based on seniority, and how has this changed over time?
I know that it’s a bit of a complicated answer, but the curious part in me nags at knowing the answer
It’s not a complicated question, it’s an impossible question to answer with any certainty. There are simply too many variables and the industry is always changing. I’m at Hawaiian and you could be hired right on to the widebody day 1. At the big 3 it depends on movement and also you have to factor in pilot bases. EWR is a junior base at United so you could probably get EWR 767 FO in pretty short order but if you want SFO it could take much longer. Same with Delta JFK vs ATL. It depends on your priority and again movement within the airline. If the airline is phasing out an airframe people might be holding on or bailing quickly depending on the routes. New equipment is always sexy so that usually takes longer.
We have new hires that get the 757/767 fleet, but the reality is that they will almost never fly the wide body 767 and will almost exclusively fly the narrow body 757. I have been at my airline for twelve years, while I could have held 777 FO quite some time ago, I would have been very junior on it and would still be, whereas I have some seniority as a 320 Captain. The widened positions that are off reserve go very senior, whereas reserve does not. So the reality is you could probably hold it within a few years (assuming moderate growth and airline financial well being), but you might want to wait for some time to have a better quality of life and be off reserve.
As for the actual flying of the wide bodies, that excitement wears off pretty quickly, you will learn that they fly just like any other airplane, they just sit a bit higher off the ground.
A bit off topic, but I’ve heard that, at least at United, the San Francisco and Newark 756 positions actually tend to go the most junior of all the categories in the new hire classes. Is it because they spend so much time on reserve and at the bottom of the seniority list, and as a result their QOL stinks?
Yes, those positions can go pretty junior. If a pilot lives in base, it isn’t so bad. If they commute, that is a whole different story.