Real Answers from Real Pilots

Flight Schedule

Hello everyone,

I am a 16 year old currently working on a private pilot license. I am strongly considering going commercial in the future. I am trying to get as much information as I can on going commercial before I decide so I have a few questions about the schedule.

  1. How many days in a month do pilots usually fly?

  2. Are the dates given to pilots or can they choose whether or not they want to fly that day?

  3. If pilots fly in the U.S, do they usually fly to the destination and back on the same day and go home, or do they have to fly somewhere else from the destination?

  4. Are pilots allowed to choose how they want to space out flight dates( go fly the entire first half of the month and have the rest off)

  5. How do vacation days work?( Are they just the off days, or are they just added on to off days?)

  6. Are there certain days when your away from home for a long time?(3 or 4 days)

I was always unclear on how the scheduling works so I appreciate the answer. Thank you!

Hi Andrew and welcome,

Good questions so let’s go"

  1. Most airlines have minimum days off a month and it’s usually around 12. As with EVERYTHING at the airlines SENIORITY has everything to do with your schedule and how many days off you’ll have. Junior pilots will have the min at 12 and senior pilots can have as many as 20, the average is about 15 days off OR 15 days of flying.

  2. SENIORITY my friend. When you’re new and junior you will fly where and WHEN the airline needs you to and will have min control over your schedule. As you gain seniority you gain control over your schedule.

  3. Different airlines have different routes. There are 1, 2, 3 and 4 day trips. Day trips will get you home every night, the longer ones you’ll be away. Which trips will you get? SENIORITY.

  4. Yes they can and many do. Will YOU be able to? Wanna take a guess? SENIORITY.

  5. Every airline provides vacation days to their pilots. As you gain SENIORITY you’ll get more vacation available. Usually you’ll start with a week and build up to 4. Some airlines allow you to break the days up others you can only get entire weeks. Will you get the days you want when you want them? Any guesses? :slight_smile:

  6. Yes and often. Since most people want to be home every night (but not all) many bid for the 1 and 2 day trips leaving the 3 and 4 days to the junior guys.

As you can see SENIORITY really governs everything regarding your schedule at the airlines.

Adam

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Adam,

Thanks for the fast response. I understand much better now. That’s amazing how seniority basically controls everything. How much in advance do pilots usually get their schedule so they can plan?

Andrew,

Again it varies from airline to airline but you’ll usually bid the beginning of the month for the next month and get the results (ie, your schedule) by mid month. One of the great “tools” we have is computerized trip trades. After all the schedules come out there are always extra trips. I’m always looking at “open time” and I’m a trip trading fool! By the time I’m done my schedule rarely looks anything like it did when it was awarded. With some practice and strategy even a junior guy can improve things greatly.

Adam

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Well that’s convenient. So is a bid just asking for dates to fly with a chance to get the ones you want?

Thanks

Andrew buddy bidding can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make. There’s definitely a science to it. It’s actually easier to bid when you’re junior because you’re really only getting the left overs so why go crazy? You can bid as simply as just asking for days off OR you can get incredibly specific. Depending on your airline’s bidding software, you can bid EVERY aspect of your schedule, days off, where you go, where you DON’T go, who you fly with, who you DON’T fly with, specific trips on specific days, FO or RO position etc. There are pilots I know who spend hours on their bids and their requests are literally a page long. These trips on these days, IF NOT, then this trip on this day with this CA, IF NOT, then… Personally I don’t have the patience. I bid days off, overnights and that’s it. Like I said then I’ll tweak after.

Adam

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Ok Adam I understand,

Thank you so much you helped a lot.

We get our schedules on the 17th of the month prior. There is very little trading that goes on here, most people fly what is assigned to them.