Does Aviation Ruin Relationships?

Vegas International Airport.  I was stand-by stuck.  My day had started at 4a, attempting to commute from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale, on what was said to be the busiest travel day of the year.  It was now 10p, and I was not much closer to my intended destination. My only hope was the extra flight attendant jumpseat on an oversold flight. That, and the tall, broad shouldered Captain, who happened to be in a similar situation.

I was at an airport, so naturally I would look for the cutest boy, or most handsome man, and talk to him. The Captain fit the bill. He happened to work for the same airline that we were trying to fly to the Sunshine State on, and as we waited, our small talk turned to small-world mutual friends, and the fact that he absolutely had to get back to landscape the yard outside of his recently purchased home. Railroad ties were waiting for him. I teased and giggled and found out that he left a paddle board in Puerto Rico, because he had to make a quick escape from an ex-girlfriend’s grasp. No mention of current girlfriend. No mention of a second half.

As the story goes, that pilot went above and beyond, making sure that I was on that flight. I was more than appreciative, as I had to work the next morning. I had to be in Florida. I was more than grateful, and it was just a bonus that he was easy on the eyes and a good conversationalist. We arrived at FLL about the same time as dawn, and as he stepped off of the plane, he turned, looked at me, and said, “You owe me.” Boy did I ever. I scampered towards him, standing in the jet bridge, voicing a thank you, followed by, “Let’s get coffee, or please let me buy you a drink sometime!” A nervous smile registered. The corners of his mouth pulling tight, as his eyes darted around. Stuttering, he replied…

“I probably shouldn’t…I’m getting married tomorrow.”

[Insert Kara’s jaw drops here]

Crazy Flight Attendant

I’m pretty sure somewhere between paddle boards and railroad ties, a fiancé could have been slipped into the discussion. I mean, it’s not like she was just a fiancé. They probably had already signed that piece of paper that made it official. Either way, I couldn’t help but feel dumb, as well as angry, because although I haven’t been in a I-want-to-marry-you-love yet, I predict that in the event that I am googly eyed, I probably wouldn’t stop talking about my significant someone, ESPECIALLY if the wedding was the next day.

Just saying.

Pilots. Sigh. I guess I hope he’s happy. I guess I hope that he admits he has a wife to the next cute flight attendant that flits into his flight path. Aviation is a tricky addition to a relationship, and not just an addition, but often a game changer. It makes and breaks love.

This past week, I frustratingly blurted out to Dorie, “Does aviation ruin every marriage?  Every relationship? Can anything survive its talons?”  So, I probably didn’t use the word talons, but that’s not the point. The point is, I’m losing hope, and I’m not sure if relationships and aviation will ever work like peanut butter and jelly.

aviation relationships

It’s not that I don’t believe that love can survive and even flourish in the airline industry, but it’s seems to be a rare. This is just my observation. I’m sure someone is going to email me to tell me that they are in a wonderful relationship, and one, or both happen to be in aviation, as a pilot, or flight attendant.  I believe you.  That’s great.  Continue to hangout in the small minority.

A divorce lawyer website, with the slug being, ‘Jobs-that-lead-to-divorce‘ tells me that people in the travel industry, which includes professions like pilots, and flight attendants typically have higher divorce rate than other occupations.  I asked a flight attendant, who worked for Southwest for eight years if she felt like her relationships were ruined by her flight attendant life. She didn’t think so, although she did believe that dating pilots, or long-distance love in general does create a bit of a fairytale.  It’s like a weird version of The Bachelor, where you are stuck in this controlled environment, and then paid to go on extravagant dates.  Not that flight attendants, and pilots make millionaire salaries, but in the airline industry, we go to Paris for lunch.

Flight Attendant in Paris

The wonderful world of a flight attendant

I know a pilot couple that have 6000 miles, which also includes a large, large body of water, between their respective “offices.”  I wonder how this is a marriage when they see each other so infrequently.  I would never want that as my relationship, aviation or not.  Maybe this is why I’ve been single during the stretch of my five year flying career.  I’m not unhappy, although it is sometimes lonely, but the single life is simple.  Most don’t get to be so free.  Not very many months ago, I met someone that caught, and has kept my attention.  Unfortunately bi-coastal dating with two extremely busy people is next to impossible.  Sadly, I realize that there isn’t much that I can do, except hope, and be patient, one I never had much of, and the other part of which I am losing quickly.  Aviation isn’t a sugar coated place to start a relationship, or continue a relationship, but, where exactly is anything sugar coated in this world, except maybe the candy store?

dating a pilot

This era we are living in now simply suffers in bad, and unhappy relationships.  People that should never have been together, or stayed together, are “trying to make it work.”  I heard once in a business success seminar that when you’re just trying, you have already failed.  I really don’t believe relationships are ruined by an industry like aviation, in and of itself.  The lifestyle does put a strain on couples, and if two people are not careful, they will grow apart.

Aviation adds an element of temptation; attractive people of the opposite sex working in a small environment, and going out together at the same hotspots.  If, in a relationship there lacks trust, yes, most definitely will aviation be a catalyst to that relationship’s demise, but only because that relationship was already over.  Time together is critical to build, and maintain communication, and connection.  Aviation takes couples apart, but if those two people are honest, and make the most of their time together, this sets them up for greater success.

If you are dating, want to date, are married, or completely in love with someone that works in aviation, you must be independent, secure, and have your own life going.  If you are not that person, learn to be, or move on.

Alright, so now who wants to…

Date Me, Fly Free?

Airplane wing

About the Author Kara

Curious. Bubbly. Creative. Curating a life I don't need an escape from and inspiring you to do the same.

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Leave a Comment:

Greg says March 17, 2014

Cool story and a good cautionary analysis of possible relationship pitfalls within the aviation lifestyle. Two items of note I’d add though: one is that unlike other careers (such as nurse or dietitian or engineer for example) where the jobs can be found pretty much anywhere, with airlines you’re stuck at certain base cities (sometimes at the temporary whims of the company as you well know) and don’t always have the freedom to move around with a partner or vice versa. The second (and positive part) is that the flight benefits do make it easy to pursue long-distance relationships or any kind of friendship for that matter for people who are into that kind of thing and not just the ersatz facebook variety.

Sara says June 3, 2014

How about just don’t flirt with pilots? As a pilot wife I can tell you trampy flight attendants “innocently” flirting with pilots is infuriating. Don’t piss in your own pond.

Riley says July 10, 2014

lol. Sara, most people meet their significant others via college or work so your blanket statement sounds ignorant and makes you seem insecure in yourself. A nurse should never flirt with a doctor! A homeowner should never flirt with a mailman! Someone who works at a company should never flirt with someone in Human Resources!

    Sergiu Andreca says July 10, 2014

Adam says February 24, 2015

Spot on analysis with relationships within the aviation industry. I myself am a corporate pilot. Although I am not, “on call” my schedule is 6 on 3 off. I met a flight attendant while on a deadhead to CHS. We’ve been talking ever since and Ive flown out to see her (on her buddy pass) a few times. Me being in NJ and her in NC it is tough and very difficult to continue this relationship. I’ve said the exact things to myself. “Will I ever find anyone willing to put up with this?” “Is this just how it’s supposed to be? Live single and alone but hey I get to fly?” A career is just that, a career. When it affects your quality of life then it seems something must be done to gain it back, even if it means finding another industry. In my opinion aviation is a selfish industry. It takes time (a ton of time) away from loved ones and oneself. Although I love my job I don’t love the fact that even the girl next door would think twice about being with me for the fact I’m hardly ever around to build anything. Being 29 and seeing a lot of my peers with families I am torn. Though I at times do enjoy being single, I can’t help but envy the loving displays of affection. ie: my buddy’s wife is so proud to display the sandwich she made for her husbands work lunch. Must be nice.

nayab says May 10, 2015

Aviation is really a selfish industry . aviation keeps peolpeoples away from their love ones .

Kate says September 15, 2016

I loved reading your blog. Found it while I was googling “the pilot wife lifestyle and divorce rates.” I’m probably leaving my pilot next month (been together 3.5 years, not married but living together). I seriously can’t do this anymore. Not only is he not transparent and communicative when he is away, I’m not his priority. When he’s home? Bliss…match made in heaven. He recently went international and gets to hike through Italy on 5 day layovers, spent 5 days in Sydney on fourth of july hanging out on a beach and touristing, he now has 9 FA’s instead of 2. So, I have a passport I’ve never used (I’m 38) and engaged to a man who is LIVING my dream with strangers that I’ll never meet and places I’ll never see. It’s unfair for him to have me at home feeling this way, and unfair for me to marry someone who will live 65% of their life in adventures that will never include me. I want a partnership in life, and I actually feel lonely and depressed. Some women can get their own life and make it work, but I don’t feel like a partnership with separate lives can work for me. When I’m single? I am social and do things on my own. In a partnership I’m up my partner’s butt.
I think my pilot is a genuinely great guy and I love and adore him beyond words. I’ll be devastated to walk away but it is what I’m doing to protect my heart (he cheated during our first year with multiple FA’s but I didn’t find out until later). Even without the cheating though, this is NOT for me. I would NEVER date a pilot again. Being with mine and meeting so many pilots and spouses in the industry….yeah…NO thank you!
I hope that you are happy and blissful in your amazing career and find love that works for you! We are all individuals and what doesn’t work for some can work for others.

Renae says December 23, 2016

I am currently struggling with this ALOT right now. My boyfriend and I got together just a couple of weeks before I left for ground school. Ground school was SO hard for that reason. Being a thousand miles away during the baby stages of our relationship really took its toil. But we stuck through it. And now he only lives an hour away from my base, so it’s not a “long distance” relationship, as I get to stay with him when I’m not working. But… when I AM working… it is hell. I miss him so much, and I go through this mental cycle of “God, I love him so much” “God, he doesn’t need this, he probably hates this, I should just end it for his sake so he doesn’t have to deal with never knowing if or when he’s gonna see me again (I’m on reserve).”
I cry on most of my trips. I love what I do. I love going to new places and exploring and seeing the beautiful world we live in. But I hate not getting to have a normal relationship where I get to see him every day, and fight over dumb stuff like leaving the toilet seat up. I want that. But I also want to spend my Saturday nights in Mexico and Monday mornings in Washington D.C. Is it even possible to have both? ????
A New Flight Attendant who’s trying to figure it out

Kristine says May 18, 2017

After more than a dozen years as a pilot’s wife I can tell you it’s not all “lunch in Paris” and chocolates from Brussels. It’s also been discovering he’s been screwing around, buying hookers, sleeping with flight attendants young enough to be our children, and had an ongoing affair with a women 10 years older than me. I’m a sahm, I keep a beautiful home, I entertain his family and friends, I see my friends only when he’s flying at his request. He claims his copilot are jealous of how well I take care of him. From treating his uniforms to white glove service, to polishing his uniform shoes, to making sure he has yummy snacks in his bag for layovers and princess parking at the airport. All things I do willingly to honor the man I love. I thought we had a great marriage, until I discovered this whole other person I didn’t know I was married to. When I asked the inevitable “why” … his only answer said it all; “because I can,” Marry a pilot or flight attendant? I would never, ever encourage someone to do it.

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