How Many Hours Do Pilots Work?
The job of an airline pilot commands a fair amount of respect and, with this, a generous average salary that can be well over $400,000 per year! But how often, and how many hours do pilots work to earn this much money?
Getting into the industry as a pilot is one of the most expensive careers to get into, as well as one of the most unique.
But just what does the average pilot working week look like?
This depends on two things. The first is the airline you work for and how they schedule your roster. The second is the legal restrictions on the hours you are allowed to operate as a pilot flying.
Flight Time Vs Duty Time
Flight hours are the part of the scheduled flight from the moment the parking brake is released to the moment it is selected at the destination when the flight is complete.
However, duty hours are the time spent checking in for a flight until we have finished that duty.
So this includes briefing, walking to the aircraft, the walkaround, setting up the aircraft, boarding and everything else in between.
How Many Hours A Week Do Pilots Work?
A pilot’s workweek can be varied. It all depends on how a pilot’s rest period or days off fall.
For example, a pilot might work five or six days one week, followed by only working one or two days the next week.
As a short-haul pilot, I have some extremely busy weeks where I fly all over Europe, sometimes three flights a day.
On the contrary, I have weeks off for five days and almost feel like I am on holiday.
I get more time off than the average person working a Monday-Friday job.
This also depends on whether or not a pilot is on a fixed rostering pattern or a flexible rostering pattern.
The Legal Limits
Obviously, long-haul flights tend to be much longer than short-haul flights, meaning that they tend to complete more flying hours per scheduled flight.
However, short-haul pilots will fly more often, meaning they will average around the same number of hours per year.
Here are the legal requirements to answer the question of ‘how many hours a week does a pilot fly.’:
The maximum duty hours for flight crew will not exceed: 55 hours in any 7 consecutive days, but this figure can be increased to 60 hours when a rostered duty covering a series of duty periods has commenced and is subject to unforeseen delays;
This is the same in both the UK and the USA.
So yes, a pilot can operate a maximum of 60 duty hours per 7 days.
This is a high number of hours and will involve many flights as a short-haul pilot but potentially only one or two as a long-haul pilot.
What does this look like regarding how many days off a pilot is given? Well, you can read all about that in our latest blog post, ‘How Many Days Does A Pilot Get Off?‘.
Again, it’s worth stressing that some months a pilot might operate close to these 60 duty hours, whereas the next month, they might only operate 10-15 duty hours. This is why the job as a commercial pilot is so unique, as no two weeks are the same.
How Many Hours A Month Do Pilots Work?
In the UK and USA, both long-haul and short-haul pilots are allowed to fly a maximum of 100 hours in 28 days. This figure is 100 flight hours.
Here are the legal requirements for duty hours straight from CAP 371 itself:
95 hours in any 14 consecutive days, vs 110 duty hours in any 14 consecutive days in America
190 hours in any 28 consecutive days, the same as in America.
What does this look like in real terms?
This depends on the airline, whether a pilot is a long haul or short haul. However, airline pilots will work fewer days than a ‘normal job’, with most pilots having at least ten days off a month.
How Many Hours Do Pilots Work - Over The Year
Pilots can operate a maximum number of 1000 flying hours per year.
This is to protect themselves and ensure they are not too fatigued, as they are responsible for keeping the aircraft and passengers safe!