Besides death and taxes, one other diametric is sure – where salaries are high, so are house prices. So it’s no surprise that the topic of commuting by plane i.e. living in one (cheaper/nicer) location while working in the other, is a typical airport bar conversation. For some people, those who dread the hassle of plane travel, it’s a non-starter. But for those of us who really don’t mind airports, security, passport control, boarding hassles and expensive bottles of water, it’s really not so bad. But are we dreaming the impossible dream? Let’s investigate the idea further.
Can you commute by plane?
The current poster boy for commuting by plane is, Curt von Badinski, the co-founder of a San Francisco-based tech company. He lives in Burbank and works in San Fran. An impossible daily commute by car – but by plane…just possible. His commute from his home to his office takes six hours every day. And this is how he does it. Five days a week, he gets up at 05.00 and heads to Bob Hope Burbank airport to catch a 90-minute Surf Air flight to Oakland. He keeps a hybrid car in the lot there, which only does this route back and forth everyday. His flight home is at 17.00. He gets in his front door around 21.00.
Now this is not something most of use could do. Firstly, except for weekends, he has zero down time/family time. Actually, I don’t know if he’s in a relationship with anyone other than his office. And he’s obviously not short of funds – he keeps two cars and pays $2,300 a month for unlimited travel of Surf Air. So it begs the question – why not just rent a room? But for his own reasons, he doesn’t.
But what about the rest of us?
For a couple of years, I did an international plane commute from Germany to London, and here’s what I learnt. Firstly, doing it every single day is madness. Also, it has to make sense financially. Besides this, the repetition can be soul destroying. And you’ll be at the whim of the airline’s commercial plan. But, if you live and work within spitting distance of an airport, it can really make sense.
I started off travelling once or twice a week for one day, from Memmingen to Stanstead. Often times I’d then commute into Canary Wharf or the City. The second part of my commute was the most time consuming and the most expensive. But because I was there only/twice once a week, it worked fine.
When I had to be there more often, I had to get a Monday-Friday room. Once this happened, again – I lost any savings I incurred by not living in London. But this wasn’t really about saving money. This was about living with someone who didn’t work in London. So, it was worth it for me.
However, when I changed jobs – when I didn’t have to commute into town anymore, when I could stay in Essex, oh my – it was wonderful. I was a fifteen minute drive from Memmingen – and the airport (often know as Munich West by the Ryanair promotional material – hint – it’s nowhere near Munich), is a relatively recent airbase conversion. It’s small and has an abundance of parking within a 5 minute walking distance. My time from car to gate was five minutes flat. Never ever did I see more than four people before me going through security. Actually, the one time I saw ten, and was late, the nice Germans let me skip the line.
However, the same cannot be said of Stansted. I was also only about 10 minutes drive from the airport, but it took me 5 minutes just to get from the taxi to security. And I have one word on that – Priority. At 05.00 Stansted security lines are horrendous.
Why did I stop commuting by plane?
So if you have the right, easy airports in your commute, I think it’s very doable – but easy airports are often small airports and here’s the catch. I used to fly Ryanair (I still do – don’t ask – it’s complicated). So they used to do 2 flights a day to Stansted. Then it went down to one. Spoiler – you can’t do a one day commute on a single per day flight schedule. Also, small airports rarely have more than one service provider per location. So when Ryanair backed off – the dream died. And I had to leave my job.
So, in short – you can commute by plane – it can be wonderful, but when things change, you may really struggle to still make that 08.30 meeting…