When it comes up that I’m married to a pilot, I usually get told how lucky I am and how they’d love to be in my shoes. I usually just smile and nod, but I know all they see is the flying standby for free. Truth is, just like everyone else’s life, it really can suck.
Pilots Don’t Make as Much as You Think
Used to be, pilots were making bank. Now, long time pilots at major airlines make good money, but pilots just starting out make very little. Think less than $20k a year. Now, that’s bad enough, but flight school is really expensive. So that $20k a year looks even worse when you have $85k in student loans. When I met my husband he was renting a room and eating a lot of hot dogs. True story.
Pilots Are Gone A Lot
Pilots work trips that they are given. Trips can be one day or multiple days and they can be back to back. It’s not unheard of for there to be six days in a week the pilot is gone. For us, the average is four.
A pilot bids for trips. He says “Hey, I really want this day and this day off, and I don’t want to work Sundays.” Then the company makes the schedules and sends them out to the pilots. Sometimes it works and the trips match up with what you ask for. Sometimes you are pretty much screwed, and there’s not anything you can do about it. You just have to hope the next month is better.
We’ve been married eight years, and he’s been at two Christmases. Halloween is hit or miss. He tries to get the kids’ birthdays off, but he’s working Claire’s next month.
He will never be able to coach a sports team. Cute family traditions like Taco Tuesday? Yeah, not so much. No week is ever the same as the week before because we work around dad’s schedule.
Forget Shared Parenting
Kid wakes up sick? Too bad – that’s all me. It’s not like I can get him to help me while he’s off in Timbuktu. Maybe in three days when his trip is over.
Pilot Marriages Fail Often
They even have an acronym for it – “AIDS” (Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome). There’s enough time away they can live a whole separate life, ala “The Pilot’s Wife” and I’ve been told affairs abound. Regular marriage is hard enough, being married to a pilot can get to be ridiculous.
Standby Can Be Hard
How would you fly to Tucson from Dallas? One flight, right? Maybe two? Here’s how we did it last :
- Dallas to Detroit
- Detroit to Allentown, PA
- Allentown, PA to Atlanta
- Atlanta to Phoenix
- Drive from Phoneix to Tucson in a rental car
I am dead serious.
It isn’t always this bad, but coming back from Hawaii had us spend the night in the San Francisco airport. It is rarely glamorous, and almost always logistically difficult. That pic of the kids is at the end of a 20 hour travel day.
(Although it is very true that none of us would have gone to near the number of places without this one job perk. I’m not saying it isn’t awesome, just that it can be difficult!)
Next time you are on Facebook and start dreaming about someone else’s situation, remember no one’s life is 100% perfect. The person who’s life you envy may well be envying yours.
UPDATE – There are some great Pilot Wife FB groups where you can go and talk to women who are in the same situation that you are in. Here is one, and there are a few others if you search “Pilot Wives” with the search bar. Always feel free to comment, but I wanted to give a resource for those that could benefit from a community.