An airline pilot’s work schedule can vary significantly depending on seniority and the type of flying the pilot does.
Often, these two factors work hand in hand.
How Seniority Impacts an Airline Pilot’s Work Schedule
In many industries, you have to pay your dues before you can enjoy career advancement and the perks that those lower down the pecking don’t get to experience. The airline industry is no exception.
Seniority is everything as an airline pilot.
A pilot’s seniority starts the day they get hired by the airline. It also doesn’t transfer between airlines, so pilots will rarely switch airlines as people do in other careers.
Airline seniority is so important because it determines:
- A pilot’s monthly schedule, the routes flow, and when a vacation can be taken
- Where a pilot will be based and what aircraft can be flown
- How quickly a pilot can progress from first officer to captain, and from a regional airline to a major airline
- How much a pilot will earn
- How many flights a pilot flies in a day
As you can see, seniority affects a pilot’s schedule in several ways. It is therefore hard to be specific when talking about schedules.
However, generally, a newly hired pilot working for a major airline will fly domestically for a few years before switching over to international and flying out from an international airport.
Long Haul, International Pilot Schedule
More senior pilots are more likely to fly long-haul, which might only include flying two legs during a week, compared to a regional pilot who may fly 20-30 legs over the course of the same week.
Senior pilots are more likely to be able to choose which trips to take, as well as their days off.
While airline pilots aren’t necessarily known for enjoying a great amount of work-life balance, senior pilots who are more likely to have families have it better than younger, less experienced pilots.
They are more likely to have their bids and requests for more favorable routes and schedules granted, resulting in a better work-life balance.
Hours a Week/Month/Year Airline Pilots Work
Airline pilots are not permitted to fly more than 30 hours in any 7 consecutive days, 100 hours a month, and 1,000 hours a year. On average, airline pilots will fly around 85 hours a week, and 700 hours a year.
Keep in mind that the above only applies to flight time and not all the other tasks that pilots carry out between the trip, each leg, and at the end of the trip.
This can include paperwork, pre-flights, post-flights, clearances, packing their aviation headset and other equipment in their flight bag etc.
Pilots Get Many Days Off a Month
Again, seniority is king.
Junior pilots can expect to have a minimum of 12 days off, whereas senior pilots can enjoy as many as 20 days off.
15 days is approximately the average.
There isn’t necessarily a set amount of days off a pilot takes a week, but it usually amounts to 2-3 days off weekly.
When Pilots Receive Their Schedule
When a pilot receives their schedule is largely dependent on the airline.
Pilots can either receive their schedules a month before their first scheduled flight or just a week or two in advance.
Typically, schedules are received by mid-month.
The extent of trip trading depends on the airline, though generally, most pilots fly what is assigned to them.
John is a highly skilled and dedicated Certified Flight Instructor with a passion for teaching students of all ages how to fly, and takes enormous pride and satisfaction seeing his students become licensed pilots.
After holding various roles in the aviation industry as a pilot, John decided to become a flight instructor, and for the past decade has worked at several flight schools that offer pilot training programs of all levels, due to the rewarding nature of the job.
John's teaching approach is tailored to each student's individual needs and learning style, ensuring that they receive the best possible instruction and support. He takes pride and satisfaction in seeing his students progress and become licensed pilots, and his enthusiasm for teaching is infectious.
With John as their instructor, students can rest assured that they are in good hands and on their way to becoming confident and competent pilots.
John has been quoted or mentioned in major publications, including Chron, Flying Mag, and National Review.
You can reach John at email@example.com