As many of you already know, my boyfriend – Stefan – is a pilot. The reason I’m writing this post is because when you show up for a trip and the crew starts asking questions about your life and you say, “My boyfriend is a pilot” you get a mix of reactions. Pilots always see the humour in it and tell me “Oh, don’t date a pilot, we’re the worst!” Some flight attendants tell me they are married to a pilot and have started a family. Others have been scored and judge me for the remainder of the trip. If a passenger happens to find out, they focus on a couple of key points of interest: “Wow! You must not see each other that much?” and “Oh cool, does he work here too?!” Truth is, on paper it doesn’t seem like we see each other that much. But, we actually do surprisingly well despite our schedule trying to keep us apart. And no. He does not work at my company. He works for an American company and I work for a Canadian company. I live in Toronto and he lives in New York. The commute is easy but can be difficult… well… challenging. We take turns commuting back and forth but somehow it’s always more difficult for Stefan (Canada is just trying to keep him in the country forever).
There genuinely seems to be a lot of people wondering what it’s like to date a pilot. I can’t speak for the people that have jobs that keep them in the same city everyday but I can give you an idea of what it’s like to be a flight attendant dating a pilot. My relationship with Stefan has always been an aviation relationship. I didn’t know him before he was a pilot and he didn’t know me before I was a flight attendant. So with that information, I’d like to think that I know a tiny bit on how to handle a relationship with an airline pilot. Here’s some things I’ve learned so far:
You must be independent: This is a requirement of my job and relationship. We are both on the road for up to 4 days at a time most of the month. Some times our schedules match up and other times I have late check-ins while he has early check-ins so we’re constantly missing each other as one of us wakes up and the other one goes to sleep. On some layovers, the crew isn’t up for spending time together so we’re stuck on a solo mission to explore the city or just to go get food and eat another meal alone (Stefan is a pro at finding a Taco Bell in every city of both countries).
Take an interest in his side of the aviation world: Yes, we are both in the aviation world. But, we live on 2 different sides of that world. I spend my time in the cabin with hundreds of people and he spends his time locked in the front of the aircraft with one other person. I think it’s extremely important to take interest in his side of the world, because a pilot is a career of passion, not just a job to pay the bills. There is just something comforting about listening to Stefan talk about his day in the plane. Sometimes I have no idea what he’s talking about (he’s really smart and there’s a lot of big words), and sometimes it’s been a stressful day, but the fact that he wants to share his half of the aviation world with me means a lot. Plus, I’ve learned a lot of cool stuff I never thought would take up space in my brain.
You will always have the most accurate weather forecast: There is no such thing as opening the regular old weather app on your iPhone. The moment I open my mouth and wonder what the weather is going to be like in whichever destination I’m going to, Stefan has radars and airport weather data coming in hot. I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of totally awesome.
Don’t use lines like “Oh, it’s because he’s a pilot!” or let people judge him because of him “being a pilot”: This frustrates the hell out of me. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Every person is different and (believe it or not) this goes for pilots also. I work with other flight attendants who are dating or married a pilot and they complain about them being messy and lazy and leaving their suitcases all over the house and finding unwashed uniforms in the laundry room. I hate to break it to you, but we all do it. Some times when I get home from a pairing it takes me a solid 30 minutes to remember that I have to put away the food in my lunch bag. I’ve have people eavesdrop on me when I’ve tried to catch Stefan between his flights while I’ve been waiting for the hotel van and he hasn’t answered, “Oh, it’s because he’s a pilot, you know why he isn’t answering…” He’s a normal person too, being a pilot isn’t an excuse. It’s a career.
Be understanding: Things are going to change. Constantly. Flights are going to get delayed and cancelled, days will get rolled over, or crew scheduling will just just decide to completely change your pairing. You just have to roll with it. Both of your plans will change and you’ll have to explain to everyone why you couldn’t attend the same function together. If any of you reading this are a newly hired pilot or flight attendant, you’ll also understand the need to pick up trips to earn a little extra money sometimes. So, occasionally that takes away from the little time you already have together.
You will have built in breaks from each other (whether you like it or not): As much as you may love someone, it’s always nice to spend some time apart and enjoy your alone time. This is normal. For normal couples. We don’t have the luxury of choosing when we want some time apart; we spend most of our time apart. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? Right.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! I have learned that this is by far the most important part of any relationship, but it is especially important when you are a flight attendant dating a pilot. During flights, we are both unreachable and even when we are on the ground we may be quick turning or in a different time zone that doesn’t match up with the other person’s schedule. This can easily cause some tension if you don’t deal with it properly. I can’t give Stefan enough credit for how amazing he is at communicating. Anytime we’re on the ground, we try to at least send a quick text – just enough to let the other person know we’re thinking of them. We share a Google calendar that we update with our schedules so we know flight numbers, layover destinations, and hotels in case anything goes wrong. We make an effort to FaceTime each other during the day when we can or at least before we go to bed for the night. We put in the effort it takes to make this work. We communicate. Do it people. It’s important.