Pilot Schedule - How Many Days Off Do Pilots Get?
One of the questions I get asked frequently is, ‘how many days off does an airline pilot get?’.
This was one question that was on my mind when I began my pilot training.
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.
This may be a slightly surprising amount of time off, especially as the job as a pilot is seen as many by well-paid.
I tend to find that in the busier seasons, I tend to get, on average, 12 days off a month and in the quieter seasons, this could be as many as 14!
These will usually be spread out throughout the month, not all in one big block of 12 days at a time!
It’s worth noting that different work trips require different days off afterwards.
For example, in short-haul, a 2-day trip legally might not require any days off, especially if there are very few timezone changes.
However, a 4-day long haul trip that involves different timezones and lack of climatization might require several days off after.
How Many Days Off Do Airline Pilots Get? – Different Roster Patterns
A commercial pilot’s roster depends primarily on whether they are on a fixed, flexible/random roster pattern.
Typical Commercial Pilot Schedule - Fixed Pattern Rosters
A fixed pattern, as the name suggests, is where a pilot will operate a fixed schedule. This could be five days at work, followed by four days off and repeated.
Or it could be six days on, five days off, five days on, and four days off etc.
Short haul pilots are more likely to have these roster patterns.
Typical Commercial Pilot Schedule - Random Pattern Rosters
A flexible roster, or a random roster as it is frequently known, is a roster with no set structure.
These rosters are more common with long-haul pilots. Of course, these pilots are spending more time away from home than their short-haul colleagues.
How Often Are Airline Pilots Home?
Again, this mainly comes down to the airline a pilot works for.
Some short-haul airlines don’t offer night stops.
That means these pilots only operate scheduled flights there and back, meaning pilots are home every night.
However, other short-haul airlines, including the airline I fly for included, operate night stops and trips away.
These trips could be two or more days, up to a maximum of a 5-day trip at my airline. This could involve visiting and staying in three or more countries within this one trip!
How Many Days Off An Airline Pilots Gets Depends On Seniority In Some Airlines
Seniority within an airline is pretty much how long you have been employed. The longer you have been with this airline, the more senior you are likely to be.
With this comes a bidding system. This is bidding, or requesting, the days off you want, the trips you want and much more.
A more senior pilot is likely to get what they bid for.
So if you are a senior pilot and ask only to operate day trips and therefore be home every night, then you are likely to be granted this.
It’s worth noting that there is usually a balance between those who like being away on trips (myself included) and those who want to be home every night. Therefore, people tend to get what they ask for.
Typical Commercial Pilot Schedule - The Legal Limits
The governing body for aviation in each country, the FAA for American aviation or the CAA of UK aviation, for example, set limits on how much a pilot can fly.
For example, in the UK, pilots can fly a maximum of 100 hours in 28 days or 55 hours in 7 consecutive days.
With this, during 12 months, expiring at the end of the previous month exceeds 900 hours.
This might sound like very little work, as some people work 45-hour work weeks.
However, we must remember that these are flight hours only and don’t include the time pilots spend briefing, setting up the aircraft, checking flight plans, the turnaround times down route and any associated delays.
In America, the most prolonged duty period with two pilots is 14 hours, with a maximum of 10 hours of flight time. This means 4 hours of this duty period is spent not flying.
A Pilots’ days can be very short on short haul. For example, the shortest flight I operate on short haul is a 30-minute flight there, 45 minutes at the destination and then 30 minutes back.
With all the briefing associated, this makes a duty day of around 4 hours. Not the most extended workday in the world.
However, some duties might be 12 hours long, and others can be more than 13 hours, particularly on long haul (which is dependent on the aircraft type you fly).