Whether you like it or not, if you’re based in NYC like 99% of all new hires are based, eventually you’re going to be a commuter. This is true for almost all major airlines. New York is almost always the junior base. I just read that over 70% of all New York City flight attendants are commuters.
I never heard the term “Commuter” growing up in Texas. I may have seen a movie where some guy in Westchester was “commuting” on a train into Manhattan every day but I didn’t really get it, nor did i care. Once I got this job and got sent to New York City though, I had my crash course on what this commuting thing is all about.
There is only so much you can take of New York City and then you want out. Sometimes it’s your age that causes the exodus, sometimes it’s just getting sick of the weather, or the people, or the expensive, yet claustrophobic rentals. It may be the filth, or the rodents, or the fact that you are no longer shocked when you see someone masturbating on the A train during rush hour.
Some people reach this breaking point within days. They just never give New York a chance and I feel sorry for those people. Others give it a chance and go with it as long as possible. Eventually you’ll hit that tipping point and want out. I loved being in New York in my 20s, I had the time of my life. By the time I was 30 though, I’d been in New York for 7 years and it was already too long. It took another three years to pull the trigger but I knew I was done with it.
It’s such a wonderful feeling living in the city you’re based. It’s so easy. When those silly commuters are rushing to catch a flight and stabbing each other in the back to be the first one on the list for the jumpseat, you’re on the subway and within an hour you’ll be on your sofa watching your DVR-ed shows with a cocktail in your hand. Commuting sucks, in theory and in practice.
Eventually your priorities will change and the cons of living in New York will outweigh the pros and you move away and start the life of a Commuter. Since you fly for free it’s not really a matter of money that makes it such a pain in the ass. It’s a waste of time and can be incredibly stressful. When you get off a plane the last thing you want to do is deal with airports and more planes.
Airline people can be very creative when it comes to getting home. You wouldn’t think that flying from New York to Nashville to Dallas back up to Chicago is the best way to get home, but sometimes that’s the only way to get home, so you do it. I’ve flown from Dallas to Los Angeles in order to get to New York. I know some people who will fly to London from NYC just to get to Texas. To successfully be a commuter you need to think outside the box. This also includes Amtrak, Greyhound, and selling your body for a ride to a random airport where there just might be an open seat.
Some commuters like to stay at home as long as possible and will pick flights to get them back to NYC just minutes before they need to sign in for the trips they need to be working. That’s cutting it close and there’s absolutely no margin for error. Other people are Chicken Littles and come up a day early to make sure they’re at base in plenty of time.
When you become a commuter all of a sudden you can’t fly half the trips available. They either sign in way too early to fly up in time or they get back to New York way too late to fly home. The trips that leave in the evening and get back in the morning are the most wanted trips for commuters. You don’t even think about that when you live in the city you’re based. That’s so nice.
Some commuters go home after every trip, even if they only have one night at home. Others like to back up their trips so they only have to commute up once or twice a month. Personally I like to have a week off, then work three trips in a row (usually nine days), go home for another week, and then work another three trips. That’s what I’ll do until I win the lottery.
The backstabbing that goes on between crew members trying to commute is simply vicious. It’s really entertaining when you’re not involved but sucks when you’re one of the horses in the race. It’s hilarious when two people who have just worked together for the last five days are fighting for the one jumpseat on the same flight. They’ll play nice working together but it’s always present, hanging over their heads, the elephant in the room.
They know the second they land back in New York it’s a race to get listed for that flight. Technically you’re not supposed to check in for your commuter flight until you get to the gate but no one ever waits that long. Most people call and list as soon as the wheels touch the ground. It’s understood amongst crew members that this is proper protocol. What’s not kosher, however, is having a spouse or friend check you in for the flight before you actually land in New York. That’s a huge no-no and people get in a lot of trouble for that. Not only will you be a social pariah, you can get your flight benefits taken away from you by the company.
As soon as you touch down, the race is on and the fun begins.