Why I’m based in New York when I live in California

Dear Heather,

your comments about being on reserve in New York made me wonder; why don’t you fly out of LAX? I know quite a few people at United who commute west coast to IAD, but that’s primarily because you can’t get the great international flying anywhere else in the system and their seniority goes a lot further.

John in MRY

Dear John,

Good question, John! In fact, it’s a question that my own family and friends have asked often. But first I’d like to address the airport / city codes you mentioned in your question for our readers who are not familiar with airline lingo…

LAX – Los Angeles, California
IAD – Washington Dulles
MRYMonterey, California

Back in 1995, my classmates and I were offered several base choices prior to graduating from flight attendant training. Because the bases were rewarded by class seniority and class seniority was determined by age, which made me one of the more junior people in the class, I only had three real options – San Francisco, Miami, and New York. My plan was to eventually live at each and every base the airline offered. That’s why I took the job in the first place. To travel. To experience new things. To live in different places.

San Francisco: San Francisco would have been my first choice, except for the fact that the base was (and still is) one of the most senior bases in the system. When it comes to working for an airline seniority is everything. It determines what you fly, when you fly, and days off. Not to mention, the cost of living in California was (and still is) expensive for a flight attendant. A new hire back in 1995 only made a salary of $17,000 the first year. And because only a handful of people from my training class were going to San Francisco, all of whom were from San Francisco, I knew it wouldn’t be easy to find a couple of roommates to share a small place in the short four days the airline allotted before we were all off and flying our very first trip. Though I didn’t go to San Francisco, I knew that one day I would transfer there as soon as I acquired a little more seniority and my pay checks were just a wee bit bigger.

Miami: The majority of the people in my training class wanted to go to Miami, whether they had enough seniority to hold it or not, and most of them did not. The base was (and still is) the second most junior in the system. Of course the weather is always nice, the beaches are beautiful, single life, for me, would have probably been a lot of fun, and the cost of living in 1995 was not bad, not bad at all. I remember seeing an ad in the newspaper for a one bedroom apartment near the beach for $500 a month. It seemed like a dream, a dream that I could actually attain as a flight attendant. Miami was the base for me – but there was just one other place I wanted to go to first.


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