Airline Pilot Life – Life As A Pilot – The Best And Worst Parts

Pilot Best And Worst Parts

Airline Pilot Life - The Best And Worst Parts About Life As A Pilot

The job, and therefore the life of an airline pilot, is undoubtedly unique.

Indeed, many people (myself included) would deem the job far more of a lifestyle than a ‘typical’ Monday-Friday job.

Pilots spend a massive amount of money on becoming commercial pilots. The cost of becoming a commercial pilot can be as high as $100,000/£100,000.

If you’re one of the people that’s interested in becoming an airline pilot, or if you are just interested in the lifestyle of a pilot, then it might be helpful to know the best and the worst parts of the job (in my own, personal opinion, of course).

Before I start, though, I’d like to comment that I love my job as an airline pilot. I am not complaining about anything, but just trying to help educate people about the worst parts of the job, again, in my opinion.

Airline Pilot Life - Life As A Pilot - The Best Parts

Getting Paid To Travel The World


This is generally the reason most people love being a pilot. Getting paid to travel the world is an excellent pro to the job. Indeed, as a short-haul pilot based in the UK, I have experienced and explored nearly every European city, all whilst being paid for the pleasure of doing so.

Find out all about the day in the life of a pilot.

I ate pasta and pizza in Rome and then enjoyed dinner overlooking the Eifel Tower in Paris the next day.

This experience is further emphasised as a long-haul pilot, where you will travel further to more exotic destinations.

How much you will get to travel and experience new countries, cities, cultures etc., as an airline pilot will strongly depend on whether you are a long-haul or short-haul pilot.

This is because long-haul pilots tend to fly longer flights (as the name suggests) and, therefore, will have at least one night at their destination.

In most airlines, the minimum amount of time long-haul pilots will spend is around 24 hours. Even on these shorter trips, it still gives you a chance to go out and explore the city you are staying in.

Some long-haul trips can be longer, though. 

It’s not unusual for crew to have two, three or even four local nights at their destination. This gives them a fantastic chance to explore the city they are staying in and even to travel out of the city to see and experience other things that the country has to offer.

Some short-haul airlines, mainly those low-cost airlines, will not offer any night stops. This is worth bearing in mind when applying for an airline job.

Of course, you should always take your first job offer as a commercial pilot, especially if this job is flying a commercial jet, as getting jet hours and experience is essential in the early stage of your career.

However, later on, in your flying career, you should factor in the fact that not all airlines will offer you the ability to travel as part of your job. 

So instead, you will spend your life flying to a destination and, after a turnaround of usually under one hour, fly back to where you started.

Some people prefer this life as a pilot, which can be much better suited to family life, as it means you’ll be home most nights.

Play Video about Travelling As A Pilot. Life As A Pilot.

No Real Takehome Work


One of my favourite parts of being an airline pilot is that there is little take-home work.

Indeed, once the parking brake has been set at the end of the flight, the checks are complete, and passengers safely disembarked, you are finished.

Other than keeping up to date with airline manuals and company updates, staying current and preparing for your six-monthly simulator checks, there isn’t any mandatory work to be done.

A pilot is responsible for ensuring they are well briefed for every flight and up to date on the knowledge and procedures. However, as a commercial pilot, you won’t need to send and reply to emails during unsocial hours like other well-paid jobs.

Your free time is yours. This is great for family life, hobbies or working on a business venture outside of flying!

You Get More Time Off Work


Yes, as a commercial pilot, you will have more time off of work than a typical Monday-Friday job. You can read about how much time off a pilot gets in one of our recently posted blog posts.

Whilst some days at work are very long, and you will spend time away from work, you will still find you have at least ten days off of work per month.

Pilot Life – No Two Days Are The Same


One of the best parts of the job is that every day is different.

Even if you are flying the same aircraft to the same destination frequently, you will nearly always be flying with different pilots and cabin crew and face different conditions, such as weather, delays etc.

It’s an active job, and you’ll get to meet and fly with various people.

Depending on your airline’s size and route network, you may fly to a different destination every day for months before you repeat the same flight.

This is an excellent part of the job that many people don’t think about!

Life As A Pilot – The Pay


Depending on which country you are based in and the airline/aircraft you fly for, airline pilot salaries can be very lucrative.

If you’re interested in the job to make as much money as possible, there are specific contracts worldwide, mainly in Asia and the Middle East.

However, even the contracts in the USA are seeing huge increases to their pay, with Delta Airlines pilots securing an insane pay increase of 34% over the next three years!

Airline Pilot Life – Life As A Pilot – The Worst Parts


The Schedules/Planning


Life as a commercial pilot is very different to life as someone who works a ‘normal’ Monday-Friday job. This is mainly due to the structure of your schedule.

In a previous post, we briefly discussed what pilots’ rosters/schedules look like. Here are the videos to explain the difference between a fixed pattern roster and a random rostering pattern.

Play Video about Pilot Life - Flexible Rosters
Play Video about Pilot Life - Fixed Rosters

With the above in mind, getting the time off you want can be challenging. There are specific methods you can use, but ultimately, it can be complicated if you are rostered to work on a day that you need off, be it for a wedding, birthday, etc..

I have flown with many pilots who were upset as they missed social events or even their children’s birthdays!

With the above, as a commercial pilot, you are very likely to work weekends. As you progress in seniority, you might work fewer of these weekends.

With all of the above, you are required to plan your life well in advance. In addition, any big social plans need to be considered when planning your leave/holiday dates.

Antisocial Hours


Of course, this touches on the above point that you will often be flying at anti-social hours, such as at weekends.

With this, you will often be required to wake up in the middle of the night (2/3/4 am) to report to work.

On the other end of the spectrum, some nights, you might be required to report for duty at 9/10/11 pm and then fly through the night!

These early and late starts can wreak havoc on your body clock, and it’s certainly not too comfortable flying through the night when your body feels like it should be sleeping and is not comfortable waking up in the middle of the night/early hours of the morning.

Short-haul flights will be a victim to these late and early starts. However, this can pose even more of an issue as a long-haul pilot due to the varying time zones!

For example, you might take off at 7 pm local time at your destination, but this could be 2 am on your body clock!

Pilot Life – It’s Not The Healthiest Job In The World


Long periods of inactivity whilst sitting down, eating foods that are high in salt and calories and the impact on your body clock due to antisocial hours are all part of the negative health impacts of the job.

Therefore, you must live a healthy lifestyle outside of work and take care of your body by eating healthy, exercising and trying to recover from sleep deprivation.

I am a huge believer in this and spend a large amount of my time on days off exercising and going to the gym. I mainly focus on strengthening my lower back and leg muscles to make up for the time sitting down at work.

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