I've been super commuting from Los Angeles to Oracle HQ in Redwood City for a little over a year, and it's been a fascinating ride. I've learned so much more about flying, aviation, delays, work/life balance, my body, and remote work than I've ever imagined. I fly from LAX to the bay area every Tuesday morning and fly back down every Wednesday night and spend the other three days working from home. What have I learned?
First, I'm astonished at how flexible and adaptable my body is. The first time I flew, I was dreading the commute. I had to wake up at 5 AM to be at work by 10 AM. I drearily stood in TSA lines, unpacking my laptop, taking out my liquids, and sitting in between two also dreary travelers. It didn't quite have the sexiness some people imagine with flying, nor did it invigorate me. It was a energy sucking experience.
A year later, I actually enjoy flying. There are of course a few perks with having elite status on an airline. I no longer sit in TSA lines thanks to TSA Pre, which requires a traveler to be an airline frequent flyer. But this means I can zip through TSA lines in less than a minute because you don't even have to take off your belt or laptop! You just walk through security. As an elite, you get economy plus seats, which is plenty of space for a shorter person like myself. On the actual flight myself, I just read my kindle as if I was sitting on the subway. My brain has post processed all the airplane engine noise that I don't even notice it anymore. Half of the time, I can actually sleep on the plane too, so to me it feels like a normal one hour subway ride. I'm quite surprised at how quickly my body has adjusted to flying.
There were lots of battles, mostly battling San Francisco Airport (SFO). SFO is plagued by delays and is the most delayed airport in August due to fog. Essentially the problem is that SFO has two runways for take off and landing in an X figure. On good days, two planes land in parallel followed by two planes departing in parallel. The problem is that for parallel landings, the pilots of both airplanes must be able to see each other (makes sense). However, because SFO has fog, the FAA has regulated that runways must be 2,500 feet apart to do instrument based landings. SFO's runways are only 750 feet apart, essentially closing down one runway during fog. This can lead up to 3 hours of delays by the evening due to a cascade of delays. Protip: fly through SJC. I've also learned optimal flight schedules and flight prices due to weather patterns between LAX and SJC. LAX has fog and has minor delays in late May through mid July. LAX to the bay area in winter should cost ~$140 roundtrip and in summer ~$175. Booking between 3 - 6 weeks in advance give you the best prices.
The other half of flying is that working from home, totally remote all year is really difficult. There are times when it's fantastic to be remote, such as a morning bike ride to the beach. The other half is draining and it makes it difficult to make and maintain work relationships. I think of Oracle was a fully distributed company, it'd be fine, but every week is difficult. I think most people are better off easing into remote work, or making occasional trips to the office. I'm actually quite happy that LA and SF are in the same time zone and is a short flight away. It makes it rather inexpensive to go to visit HQ and get face time. I think optimally, every other week is probably enough, but I don't mind every week.
Overall, I'm quite happy and surprised at how well Super Commuting is working out. I think it's been one of the best decisions I've made last year and hope to continue doing it.