on the specific issues of interest to its work regarding commuting1: definition, prevalence, reasons, effects, and suggestions for improvement.


In response to requests for definitions of what “commuting” means to pilots and crew members of commercial air carriers, the committee received a heterogeneous mix of replies from 17 of the queried stakeholders (1 airline association, 2 pilot associations, 3 individual pilots, and 11 individual airlines). Two of the respondents did not offer definitions, stating that “any definition of ‘commuting’ would be purely subjective” and “commuting cannot be defined.” Four respondents emphasized that a “one-size-fits-all” definition of commuting would be inappropriate because pilot and crewmember commutes may involve multiple different modes of travel, as well as widely variable travel distances and times, with a variety of en route activities.

For 11 respondents, however, there was some consistency of views about the airlines industry’s interpretations of “commuting.” In particular, they explicitly defined “commuting” as referring specifically to travel arranged by pilots and other crew members acting as independent agents for going to and from home and work. Seven respondents specifically constrained the commuting activity to involve travel by air. For example, one senior pilot for a major passenger carrier said: “I would say a ‘commuting’ pilot is one who takes a flight instead of driving. ‘Commuting’ should be defined as a flight. This is a starting point of how to define the corporate responsibility in numbers of commuting pilots.” Consistent with this view, three other respondents even said that “commuting” refers specifically to traveling by air from home to base using available jumpseats. However, seven other respondents at least implicitly said that “commuting” might entail not only air travel but also other modes (e.g., driving) if that travel takes 2 hours or more.


Several factors make it challenging to precisely characterize the prevalence of commuting by pilots and other crew members across the airline industry. Some stakeholders who responded explicitly on this issue were reluctant to offer numerical estimates due to the ambiguity of defining “commuting.” For example, an official of a pilot association said: “prevalence can’t be quantified, because ‘commuting’ can’t be defined.”


1There may be some subjective biases in the coding and quantification of the data, due to a need for treating similar statements by various stakeholders as paraphrases of each other.

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