The Joys of Commuting

People often ask about commuting and I’m always the first to respond that I don’t and never have. But I thought I’d take a moment to tell you about my “commute” home yesterday.

I was in NY visiting family and it was time to return to Hawaii. Really no biggy. My airline Hawaiian has a direct flight from JFK-HNL which I usually take but yesterday it was pretty full which might mean the jumpseat for an 11hr flight. United flies from EWR-HNL. It gets in much earlier and EWR is much more convenient to get to due to the ridiculous traffic to JFK (I feel bad for whoever has to drop me off). Unfortunately the UA direct flight was full so Chris was kind enough to check the ORD-HNL loads for me and they looked really good. Perfect, the first flight from EWR-ORD was empty and I could grab my favorite sandwich at Frontera in Term B. They’re boarding the HNL flight, tons of seats when they announce that the flight is “weight restricted” due to excess cargo and they’d be leaving with all those seats empty. Ok now I need a plan B. LAX is always a good option to get to Hawaii and I see UA has flight leaving in 25 min but it’s in Term C. I do my best OJ airport run and the GA is kind enough to get me on. Land in LAX and the LAX-HNL flight on Hawaiian isn’t for another 5hrs BUT UA has one leaving in an hour but it’s full. Fortunately I was the first one there to sign up for the jumpseat and beat 3 other pilots out (sorry). I finally got home at 5pm after 18hrs and consider myself fortunate.

Just giving you a taste. Btw I’m leaving now (0930 the next morning) for an 11hr flight to Sydney. Good times!



So, a pilot can ride standby on any airline at any time?


On US carriers, yes and it is free. Although pilots from other airlines obviously have a lower priority than the airline’s own employees.


One of the better perks of the job.


Sounds very similar to an IROP day as a PAX! I have many similar stories to tell as a passenger due to MX or weather issues. Always ends up being an interesting adventure for sure!

By “US carriers”, does that include pilots from regional airlines? And is there a dress code?


Yes it does and yes there is. All US Part 121 airlines (including Regionals) participate in CASS (Cockpit Access Security System) which allows you to JumpSeat on any carrier. Many pilots will JS I uniform but business casual (collared shirt and slacks/dress pants/khakis) are fine. The biggest thing to remember is JSing is a privilege, not a right and its always at the Capts discretion. What that means is you need to ask and you need to ask nicely. Show up with sneakers or say “hey I’ll be JSing on your plane today” and you may find yourself doing the walk of shame back up the jetway. :slight_smile:


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Thanks Adam. And congrats again on the upgrade back in October.

Hi guys,I 'am curious about “taking” the trips as a pilot of course. which don’t depart from your domicile. For example,you are UAL B 777 cpt based at ORD. Can you bid the trips like ORD-EWR-FRA-SFO-ORD? In this case you start at your ORD base but then you are on the flight EWR-FRA departing from the other UAL domicile (EWR).
or maybe as a ORD asigned pilot you can take only intlernational flights startng from ORD. for example ORD-FRA-ORD only??:slight_smile:


The example trip you describe does not exist. Airlines rarely (if ever) will have trips that include domestic and international legs within the same trip. As for you other example most contracts prevent pilots from bidding out of base as that would essentially undermine or bypass seniority.

FYI, when I was at ExpressJet we had an Instructor who was using a clause in the Instructor section of the contract to do just that. In addition to the company and union changing the contract because of this one pilot he also became VERY unpopular at the airline and I believe that prevented him from moving to the Major of his choice.



Generally on international routes, you will only fly flights in and out of your base, but sometimes it can be out of bases. However, the 777 is never used to fly ORD-EWR and you can’t just make up trips, you have to go where the airline routed the airplanes.


Thank You Chris. So its just like here in Europe. I gave an example of ORD-EWR because I thought they use 777 on one or two flights to EWR :slight_smile: Anyway Thanks again

Anytime. Let us know what other questions we can answer.

Hi Chris,

Surprisingly it does seem UA flies the 772 on ORD-EWR now. Check flight 1611… it is a daily ORD-EWR 772. It looks to be (at least the dates I can check) a pmUA three class ER international configured variant that could do the exact route Mike mentioned above. Currently, though they only fly the 764 EWR-FRA. The 772 flying 1611 today is scheduled to fly ORD-EWR-GRU-ORD.

Even though the plane flies the above mentioned route I would imagine the pilots don’t always stay with it. UA also flies a 772 EWR-ORD in the morning, flight 977. There are actually quite a few widebody hub-hub UA flights these days.

Here is the January UA widebody schedule:

UA even flies the 772 ORD-CUN on Saturdays now!


Yes, but the crew isn’t doing that, I can guarantee that. There is one crew flying it to EWR, then another taking it onto GRU. We almost never mix international and domestic legs into the same trip.



Yes, completely understand that. I was more surprised you guys are actually flying the 777 ORD-EWR now and CUN too!