Switching Airlines & Traveling

Something holding me back from the idea of becoming a pilot is how seniority works, and the fact that any seniority gained does not transfer when switching air-lines.

Me and my husband have discussed moving abroad once he finishes his military career, and it’s something I would love to do, but my understanding is that it is best to stay at the same airline for the entirety of your career, which means I would need to commit to either living outside the USA for a huge amount of time, or realize that I will not be able to live abroad at all.

Would you agree that moving airlines mid-career is not something someone should do voluntarily if they want a good career? I also wonder if there are any airlines that have bases in the USA and abroad?

The one consolation to never living abroad might be the more accessible flights available through my job so I could visit more places. I’ve read that becoming a pilot is a good way to travel, but most of the people saying that are not pilots themselves.

Do you feel like being a pilot realistically lets you travel more? As far as I can tell, when working, the time between locations is short and only long for sleeping before you are back in the air.

Of course, you do get flights at an amazing price, but I worry that after being in the air/traveling so much for work, getting back on a plane in my time-off to travel will get very old very, very quickly.

This isn’t a deal breaker to me because I love flying and would love it on its own as a career, I just want to make sure I know what I am commiting to, and what it will realistically be like.

Thank you!

I know United has a base in Guam. You would be able to travel pretty easily. There are some foreign airlines that will accept your licenses. I am not positive on which ones. Most likely the Asian ones as the EU airlines are a little tougher to get into. As far as the seniority thing goes, the more you have the better your schedule so you can bid for the time off to spend a week vacationing and exploring. There are many avenues but you are correct that most people do on switch airlines unless it is from the regionals to the majors.


A couple of things. First you are correct, changing airlines mid career is not a great idea. It will cost you financially and quality of life wise when it comes to schedules etc.

The one thing I think you’re overlooking is the fact that as a pilot you can literally live anywhere on the planet. I’m based on Hawaii and have friends who commute from Japan and Australia. When I was based in Newark there were pilots who commuted from Europe. While it’s not something you can do right off the bat, once you build some seniority (say mid career), it’s definitely something to consider. The thing to keep in mind is commuting is a choice and it’s entirely your responsibility to get to work on time and well rested.

As for how much traveling you’ll do, that’s entirely a personal choice. Do you like mustard on your burgers? Some do, some don’t. Me, I’m lazy and when I’m off getting on a plane is the last thing I want to do but I have many friends who are completely the opposite. One of my friends is literally “homeless”. He sold his house and when he’s off he gets on a plane to somewhere and lives in hotels. Anywhere from Boise to Bombay. Another just broke her goal to visit 100 countries. Totally depends on you. You’re also somewhat mistaken regarding the overnights. Depending on the airline, the fleet and the operation some crews will have 3,4 days at a destination. The places you really like you can go back and visit on your own time.

Just a few things to think about.


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Traveling is a perk of the job, not a reason to become a pilot. If traveling is your passion, there are much easier and more cost effective ways to do that.

If you just want the travel benefits I would consider becoming a flight attendant before becoming a pilot. That is unless your passion IS flying. If so, before you do anything it is absolutely necessary to take at least one intro flight just to test the waters, so to speak. You didn’t mention your flight experience in your post so I just want to be sure to emphasize the importance of actually flying at the controls vs in the back of a comfy airliner.

To answer your questions though, I agree with what everyone else has said. Switching airlines mid-career is typically not recommended. Most pilots only switch airlines as a regional pilot when it is time for them to move up to a major. Otherwise lateral moves or mid-career moves are uncommon and not recommended.


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Generally, it is not recommended to move from one airline to another, with the exception of moving up from the regionals to the majors. Moving to a foreign airline is also very tough as many of the ones in Europe will not hire foreigners, it seems that it is easier for pilots to find jobs in Asia.

FedEx and UPS do have bases abroad, so that could always be something to aim for.

I do feel that being a pilot absolutely lets you travel more. I have seen much of the world, both on United’s time and my own. Generally the overnights overseas are at least 24 hours, if not longer. Take a look at our schedules section as that will give you an idea of how much free time you would have to be able to travel.


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