When you tell someone, you are married to a pilot, you have to ready yourself for the barrage of questions that come at you.
What does he fly?
Where does he fly?
Where is he right now?
You must travel all the time!
Do you fly for free?
Do you always sit in first class?
Does the mile-high club really exist?
(Yes, people really ask that!)
The truth is when I began dating my now husband, I didn’t think much about him being a pilot. We began dating at the tail end of his training and all I knew was that he was gone at weird times and that weather was a factor in everything. I’d eventually learn that seniority is king and the thinking about an airplane getting into the air and staying there would always make me awestruck.
When he finished training and received a job offer at a regional airline, with a major airline as its parent, things seemed pretty good. He kindly listed me as his companion and I was able to fly, almost like I had millions of miles to spare. But we were both living paycheck to paycheck and so many of my trips were things like NYC in the fall or vacationing in Puerto Rico. It never occurred to me to think outside of the U.S.A. Trips were last minute and the chance to sit in first class almost became expected. We would joke about short trips and arriving tipsy, because what was one drink or three?
After 9/11 things got tougher and the airlines all decided to show their frequent fliers how much they truly appreciated them and the business they did with the airlines. My husband was with a regional airline for 7 years before being able to jump to the majors. (Majors is a US designation for an air carrier with annual operating revenue of more than one billion dollars, such as Delta, American, and United Airlines.)
Remember when I said senority was king? In the airline business, seniority is everything. The better seniority, the better a pilot’s schedule is. And it makes traveling for pleasure less of a headache. So when he went to “the majors,” his seniority had to start over making travel harder. And then we had kids. Getting four seats is way harder than two but we do it. And we do it last minute and can get just about anywhere our major airline goes.
Is it always easy? No. There have been many long days at the airport. There have been last minute hotel stays or driving home from an airport 2 – 3 hours away because that was the only way you were getting home. There have been last minute trips cancelled because there was no way anyone flying standby was getting on a flight for fun. Even now with almost 11 years seniority at a major, we still have stand-by hiccups. But at the end of the day I am grateful for this wonderful perk. And hope my kids realize how lucky they are to be able to take some of the trips we have taken.
So what’s my life like as a pilot wife? Most people think it is glamorous but the reality is that it can be very lonely. Most days and nights I am alone. Which means all aspects of home life fall on me. All meals, errands, school activities, and all after-school activities fall on me. A pilot’s schedule is usually made a month in advance, so more than likely anything last minute I can not attend…because chances are he will be working.
And I am not that parent with a babysitter on speed dial. I am lucky to have a very hands-on husband so when he is home, I get a much needed break. And I appreciate him that much more when he is gone. Absence definitely makes my heart grow fonder.
But what everyone really wants to know about is the trips, right? Where have I or our family been whisked off to? And… the answer is surprisingly basic. We’ve taken trips to Orlando, Boston, NYC, and Chattanooga. We have also gone to Hawaii three times, which is probably one of our most favorite trips.
We’ve seen London, we’ve seen a bit of France. Thankfully no one has seen underpants. Both these countries where great places to start whetting our overseas appetite. It was nice for the kids to recognize the sites and know them by name. And tell you who Big Ben really is.
We have done spring break in Ireland, which was even better than we could have imagined. The people of Ireland were friendly, helpful and were happy to cater to the kids. There really is green every where you look, as well as lots of sheep.
I’ve taken trips to see friends and attend concerts, which I need to try and do more. But like many women with elementary school-aged children, it is easier said than done.
After each trip, we begin to talk about what should be next. Do we stay local or venture way out? The world is a big place, with so many things to see, do, and eat. Makes me glad to be a pilot’s wife and to be able to satiate my urge to travel and show our kids the world.