I'm a supercommuter and it takes me 14 hours to get to and from work. I do it because I'm passionate about the job, but it's stressful when things go awry.
- Flight attendant Malick Mercier lives in Los Angeles but works out of New York City.
- He said he gets assigned to more interesting trips from New York City and the planes are nicer.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Malick Mercier, 24, about his commute to and from work as a flight attendant for a major airline based in the northeast. He chronicles the commute on TikTok. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I always loved aviation. Growing up I was just super obsessed with planes. I had always dreamt of being a flight attendant.
I lived in New York when I was starting, and I'm glad I did. I was living with my mom, so I wasn't paying rent at all. But I knew I wanted to explore the West. I knew I wanted to see somewhere else.
When you're a flight attendant, it feels like the only moment of your life when you can live somewhere else — but it's crazy to think you could live wherever you want.
I moved to Salt Lake City in January of this year. My airline doesn't even have a base in Utah.
I didn't really know anyone in Utah and it was cold. It was literally bringing my energy down.
I knew that there'd be more creative people in Los Angeles, and I was finding myself really happy here on layovers. I started thinking maybe this should be where I should be, and then it really worked out seamlessly.
My commute to work can be up to eight hours depending on the day
The airline doesn't know where you are, they just expect you to show up. I make the commute about four times a month.
I sometimes take three buses, depending on the time of day, to get to the Los Angeles International Airport employee bus, and then that will be my fourth bus.
I book the flight the night before if it's my airline. If it's another airline, we can't book it. We have to go to the gate and ask them to be on the flight. So sometimes I'm really risking it.
There are days when it's almost six hours, and that's not even counting the hour and a half or two hours it takes me to get to LAX if I don't Uber. Then you're looking at a five- to eight-hour commute. I feel like seven is the average commute time.
It's not my favorite thing to do to sleep on the plane. Although you're not being paid, it's a ton of time where you could totally be growing in something else. You could be reading a book.
Once I get to the airport I'm working out of, I'll change into my uniform. I'll work three flights in one day after commuting and then get the layover. I can't do four, four is when I start crying.
Since New York is a bigger base, New York crew members at my airline get a whole package based on our base and all the places we can go. I just got back from Guatemala. If I was based in Los Angeles, I would never have been offered that layover.
Also up until recently, Los Angeles crew members were basically exclusively working on one plane for the most part. People don't really think of that, but it's kind of like your office when you're up there for hours and hours. So you want to be in a nice one or the planes you like at least.
I really love my job, which is why I put up with the long commute
Commuting is really hard depending on the day — especially when you are trusted as a professional who's going to show up to work.
When you have commuting troubles, we call it out of position. Thankfully I've never had to call, but it is really tough sometimes.
I've had a commute — and this was commuting home, thankfully — from JFK to LA. This is when I lived in Utah. We diverted to Long Beach after two go-arounds because the wind and the weather was so bad in LA, and then we flew from Long Beach to LA. The power went out in the terminal and I needed to still connect the flight to Salt Lake. I don't even remember how many hours it was, but it took forever. So those are the commuting moments that are really tough.
I knew that flight attendants say commuting is basically a second job, and it does require a lot of work. You have to look at the flight schedules ahead of time and book ahead of time. I definitely did a lot of research going into it.
But it's super cool that it's a flexible job because I'm able to travel for work, and then I learn so much about the country.
I think I'd keep commuting as long as I was this passionate about it — I think that's what it comes down to. In the end, I don't think there's any job like this where you're exploring new cities or learning about things in real life and getting to meet so many different people.
Plenty of people are like, "Is it worth it?" And I feel like, yes, because this is my dream.
If it was a different job, I don't know that I would commute this far.
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