Awesome seatmate!

I know I often use this blog to whine about annoying seatmates, as I’ve had quite a few of them, from the lady that was trying to pimp out her daughter to the guy that crapped himself while sitting next to me. Not fun.

And I know I’ve mentioned time and again that I don’t start conversations on airplanes. I’m not anti-social or rude, I just know that some people want to be left alone, so I’ll let them start the conversation if they want to. Though if they’re going to brag to me about how they’re an elite and one of United’s most valued customers, after I see them on the red carpet for 30 minutes while jockeying the poll and their Bluetooth, I’ll likely end the conversation fairly quickly.

But last week I had a pretty awesome seatmate from Denver to Los Angeles. I saw him reading some airline journal, so towards the middle of the flight I couldn’t help but ask him if he was a pilot. As it turns out, he wasn’t just a pilot, but he was United’s former chief 747 training captain. After retiring he started flying for Citation, which he said is a nice supplements to his lost pension. This is the first time I got an exact number as to how much pension money pilots actually lost, and let me just say it’s shocking.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to talk to him. We discussed everything from Channel 9, to training Korean Air pilots at the United training facility, to the weekly Los Angeles to Sydney flight he took and how he dealt with jetlag. And surprisingly, he was overall quite optimistic about the industry.

Comments

  1. @ Jim @ rkaradi — He explained that he was a commuter from Denver (to Los Angeles). The flight from Los Angeles to Sydney has four pilots (him as captain and three first officers). He is in the captain’s seat for takeoff and landing, and then two pilots fly the first seven hours of the flight, and two fly the second seven hours of the flight.

    He explained that he usually commuted from Denver to Los Angeles early in the morning, got a day room at a hotel, and slept all day. Then on the flight, most of his first officers actually lived in LA, so were tired after takeoff. So he let them sleep for the first seven hours of the flight, and then he’d finally get to bed halfway through the flight. So he’d get to sleep all the way to Sydney (up until about 5AM local time), and then he’d just stay up the full day in Sydney and go to bed early.

    @ Dan — Don’t want to say the number, but let’s just say he had a VERY nice pension (think six digits a year), and it’s now just over 10% of that.

    @ Josh — He was actually a nice guy. I think the airline industry up until 10 years ago wasn’t divided by unions all that much, since at the end of the day everyone was doing very well. So back then all pilots went the extra mile. Nowadays some still do, while others take the “I get paid the minimum, so I work the minimum” approach.

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