NEW! - GI-Bill TrainingFind VA-Approved Schools
Find Aviation Schools Flight SchoolsAircraft Maintenance TrainingHelicopter SchoolsFlight Dispatcher CoursesAir Traffic Controller SchoolsAviation Management DegreesAvionics Technician TrainingCertified Flight Instructor TrainingFlight Instructor TrainingInternational Aviation SchoolsInstrument Rating CoursesMulti Engine TrainingSeaplane Rating CoursesSport Pilot SchoolsTime Building SchoolsTurbine & Jet Transition CoursesType Rating CoursesUnmanned Aircraft Systems
Airline Pilot SeniorityHow Seniority Affects An Airline Pilot's Daily Life
If you were to ask an airline pilot what one factor affects his or her daily life the most, they would most likely say "seniority". This is because where you fall on a pilot seniority list dictates what aircraft you fly, your pay rate, and even when you are able to take vacation. There are three different types of seniority.
- Relative Seniority: This is a pilots seniority position relative to the entire pilot group. When hired at an airline, within your initial class on pilots, you are placed on a master seniority list according to your age. The oldest pilot in the class will be the most senior and the youngest would be the most junior. This is also know as your longevity or date of hire seniority. A pilots pay, vacation bidding position, and captain upgrade are are all effected by this type of seniority.
- Captain or First Officer Seniority: Within the entire pilot group, there will be a captain seniority list and a first officer list. Of course a new hire pilot will start out on the first officer list and work their way up the the point where their relative seniority puts them in a position to upgrade to captain. Once the upgrade is complete, they will be at the bottom of the captain list. In times of a good economy, when an airline is expanding a hiring a lot of pilots, a first office can move up the list at a fairly rapid pace. A captain gains seniority mostly through attrition which can take many years.
- Aircraft Seniority: Each type of aircraft will have a separate seniority list. Your position on this list has the most effect on your daily life because it directly effects your monthly schedule. A pilot that is senior on an aircraft may be able to work during the week, where as the junior pilot may have to fly on weekends and most likely holidays. The red eye flights (night flights) are also most likely flown be a junior pilot. Senior pilots can pick the most productive trips to fly and even choose to lay over in their favorite cities. The more senior you are, the more flexibility you have to adjust your life style.
The Effect Of An Airline Merger On Seniority
No one event has a greater impact on a pilots seniority than a merger between two airlines, combining two different pilot groups. It can become a very emotional issue not only because of the importance of where a pilot ends up on the combined list, but you develop a certain sense of pride in the airline that you work for. Airline work groups, as a whole, take on an identity and culture that may be very different from other groups. Bringing two together can be challenging and take many years.
An example is the acquisition of bankrupt U S Airways by America West Airlines in 2005. After almost six years, the two pilot groups are still locked in a never ending battle over seniority that has seen numerous court cases and many millions of dollars in legal fees. Effectively, U S Airways is two airlines within one. West pilots and East pilots operate under different labor contracts. The fleet of airplanes is divided into West and East and are not interchangeable. It may take many years still to see a resolution to this seniority battle.
You can begin to see just how important seniority is to an airline pilot. Once we get that all important number on the list, we tend to hold on to it as if our life depended on it.
This article was written by Michael Moore, an A-320 captain, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to AviationSchoolsOnline.com. You can follow him on Twitter @michaelflies or find his blog at http://michaelfliesblog.com