The nature of commuting has been changing. In one study of commuting over a 10-year period, half of the sample changed their main method of travel at least once, and one-fifth changed three or more times (Dargay and Hanly, 2003). Several studies have looked at the physiological effects of relatively long car drives (Kluger, 1998); self-reported attitudes in high-congestion conditions (Hennessy and Wiesenthal, 1999); and rail commuting (Walsleben et al., 1999; Evans et al., 2002). A common conclusion across many studies is that unpredictability leads to stress. Unpredictability can be due to unanticipated delays because of traffic volume or weather or the unreliability of services. However, the studies do not examine the extent to which fatigue from commuting would affect subsequent job performance. They also do not make comparisons across modes of transport. There is insufficient research as to whether a 90-minute car drive is more fatiguing than a 90-minute train ride or a 90-minute plane ride.
There is a body of literature looking at the positive effects of travel (Mokhtarian and Solomon, 2001; Bull, 2004; Lyons et al., 2007; Jain and Lyons, 2008). These include a physical and cognitive break between activities at home and those at work and time to do other activities. Some activities—such as reading, writing, or rest—are only possible in passive modes of transportation, such as trains, busses, limousines, and airplanes. But even active modes of transportation, such as driving one’s own vehicle, can provide time to think, to listen to an audiobook or music, to admire the landscape, and to engage in conversation with companions. The value of these activities depends on individuals’ preferences and other demands on their time.
Commuting is different in aviation than in most other industries. For many pilots, commuting is not a daily occurrence, as pilot duty assignments often extend over several days and keep pilots away from home for multiple days at a time. As a result, a pilot’s commute to work may be undertaken as infrequently as once or twice per month—or more frequently, depending on the flying schedule and commuting arrangements. Pilots sometimes travel to arrive near their domicile (the location of the airport from which they fly) for a period before they are scheduled to fly for logistical reasons or to have a rest opportunity. This rest opportunity may be of a length and quality varying from a nap in a chair to a full night’s sleep in a hotel room or apartment.
It is not uncommon for pilots to travel by air to and from their flight assignment. Pilots commute by air to some extent because they can, and to some extent because they want to: like many Americans, pilots’ planned commutes depend on a host of personal and professional decisions involv-