Marrying a pilot – it sounds so romantic and exotic, doesn’t it? Jet setting to dream destinations and living a spontaneous life of adventure and excitement that is fit for a movie or at the very least the page of an Instagram influencer. You may be wondering, what’s not to like?
The simple truth is that marrying a pilot comes with some really amazing benefits along with a list of not so fun drawbacks. Today we’ll share the top 5 pros and cons of saying “I do” to a pilot.
Life as a pilot’s spouse isn’t turbulence free – prepare for:
1. Lots of time apart
Fair warning: if your ideal marriage consists of your lover coming home each night at a reasonable time so you can enjoy dinner and glass of wine then snuggle up to watch a movie, life as a pilot’s spouse may be a challenge.
Yes, you already know that your potential future spouse will be gone a lot, and if you’ve been dating for a while, you’ve even gotten a good taste of what this reality will be like. But think about this – even if you are fine with it now, how will you feel in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? Are children in your future? How will you cope with the solo parenting time?
People often ask how long pilots are gone each month, and the answer is that it depends on what types of flights they have, what “line” they are flying, and where they are at in their career.
The average pilot works roughly 12-15 days a month, so consider this a heads up that you could end up sleeping alone about half of the time.
2. A not so glamorous paycheck
Think that glamorous life as a pilot comes with an equally stellar paycheck? Think again. Unfortunately, the pay scale for pilots starts out surprisingly low. According to ZipRecruiter, “as of March 26, 2020, the average pay for an Airline Pilot in the United States is $63,212 a year.” The pay survey goes on to say that they found salaries as low as a dismal $19,000 and as high as $151,000.
Your pilot spouse’s salary will depend on where they are at in their career. First officers at a regional airline will make less than first officers with a national or international airline. Captains make more than first officers, and a senior captain at one of the larger airlines can earn a very generous salary. Aviation Interviews, for example, quotes a senior captain salary of $200,725.20 with Southwest Airlines.
Bottom line: Make sure you are committed to being in it for the long haul, and expect the pay to start out smaller but continue to increase over time as your pilot spouse logs more hours, gains seniority and proves just how amazing he or she is.
3. Unpredictable scheduling
For most airlines, pilots bid on shifts each month and the airline then creates a seniority-based schedule. If a pilot has high seniority – great. That pilot is much more likely to get the flights he or she requested.
Rookie pilots with low seniority will get the scraps that are left over and can hope for better luck next month. Schedules are often bid month to month, so it is hard to plan your life too far in advance unless your spouse is using vacation time to guarantee a specific day off.
The most unpredictable schedules are given to pilots who are flying “reserve lines.” A reserve pilot is basically scheduled to be on-call in case a pilot flying one of the regular lines calls in sick or there is an unexpected need for an additional pilot. A reserve pilot spends every day on standby, so while you can go ahead and make those dinner plans, the phone could ring any moment, making you cancel everything.
4. Spending holidays alone
Anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving – if you’re married to a pilot, you will soon learn to cherish the holidays you do get because more often than not, you will be spending your favorite holidays alone while your spouse does the same.
5. Possibility of furlough
Job security provides a sense of safety and stability. Unfortunately, the aviation industry can be seriously impacted by downturns in the economy. If things get too bad, airlines may start furloughing employees. As with everything else in this industry, the furlough list is based on seniority. If your spouse is low on the seniority list, you may be the family whose income is suddenly slashed when times are rough.
By now you’re probably wondering if you should specify “no pilots” on your list of dating parameters. But just keep reading, because we’re about to share some of the amazing rewards of life with a pilot.
Marrying a pilot can be amazing – here’s why:
Enough of the drawbacks – it’s time to move on to the upsides of being married to a pilot (and there really are plenty). Have a feeling your pilot sweetheart is about to propose? Maybe you’re working up the nerve to pop the question to your favorite pilot. Either way, here are our top 5 reasons to say yes to the crazy adventure of life as a pilot’s spouse:
1. Flight benefits
Of course, everyone knows that one of the top perks of an airline industry career is the access to free or discounted travel all over the world. The bottom line is that airfare is expensive. How many times have you had to pass on a trip you would have loved to take because the ticket was just too steep?
Marry a pilot, and those days are over. Imagine what it will be like to take that trip to Bali or Fiji and save all the money for an over-the-top hotel instead of burning it on airfare. A family trip to Disneyland becomes a lot more doable when you aren’t shelling out thousands in airfare.
Craving a last-minute weekend getaway? No problem. You can skip the line of normal travelers paying sky high rates for a last-minute fare.
Does your whole family get to fly for free? Good question. Flight benefits vary by airline. You may end up with unlimited free flights for you and your kids or a discounted rate. You may also be eligible for a discounted rate with other airlines that your spouse’s airline has reciprocity agreements with.
Learn the system and the ins-and-outs of “non-rev” flying so you can make the most of these coveted benefits.
2. Quality time
Pilot’s spouses say that what they lose out on in quantity, they make up for in quality. How many of your friends talk about how their spouse is home, but isn’t really present and instead spends the evening answering emails and working on projects rather than connecting with loved ones?
Once a pilot leaves the airport, work is done. No phone calls, no deadlines to meet. They come home and their time off is free to be spent on meaningful moments with those they love.
3. Flying together
Are you both pilots? Maybe one of you is a flight attendant and the other is a pilot? How would you like to fly together? The odds of coordinating your schedules may be slim, but many airlines have no policy against spouses working the same flights. In fact, Delta even did a special write-up about a husband and wife who recently flew a shared flight.
Even if you’re not a pilot or flight attendant yourself, if you have time off or work a flexible job that allows you to telecommute, you could also try using your flight benefits to follow your spouse to his or her destination during a longer layover.
4. Lower divorce rate
You weren’t expecting that one, now were you? Of course not. Pilots have long had the stigma of being more prone to divorce thanks to the long hours, time away from home and inconsistent schedules. Spouses (and former spouses) have even coined a name for it: “AIDS – Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome.”
Still, the numbers don’t lie. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-Year data, from 2009-2018, the divorce rate for pilots was 30.5%. That’s much lower than the 52.9% for the most divorce-prone group: casino gaming managers. In fact, pilots aren’t not even on the top 20 list of highest divorce rate occupations.
5. Community network with other spouses
Pilots have a unique profession and being married to them is very different from being married to someone with a predictable standard 8-5 desk job. Your non-pilot spouse friends will be supportive, but they just have no frame of reference for the special type of challenges that make you face when you’re married to a pilot.
Thank goodness for a fantastic community of other pilot spouses. These people get your frustrations and have lived through the same challenges, so they’re glad to offer support, ideas, and advice when you need it. How many other industries can say that?
If you do end up marrying a pilot, consider adding some airline decor to your home. Check out our fine selection of High Flying Models, perfect for any aviation family.