A Typical Airline Pilot Roster / Schedule – A look at long and short haul schedules
Ever wondered what a typical pilot schedule looks like? We have some examples for you to look at…
A pilots roster is very variable and depends on what aircraft they are flying and for which airline. With long haul rosters, you usually spend more time away from home (when working) than a short haul pilot, but you usually get more days off at home as a result. Short haul rosters often have a mix of day trips and “tours” where you might spend a few nights away from home at different destinations. Some airlines will only plan you for day trips (such as Ryanair). Whilst others will have you regularly staying away from home (flag carriers like BA or KLM).
There is a common misconception amongst the general public that pilots fly a set route, but this is actually very rarely the case as we tend operate any route that the type of aircraft we are trained on is operated to by our airline. This could be anywhere from a handful of destinations at a small airline to hundreds at a large one!
Pilots typical Long Haul Typical Roster
Most airlines that operate Long Haul routes have a “variable” roster. That is to say that there is no fixed pattern and you can end up working any day of the week at any time of year. Most long haul airlines operate using a seniority based system which allow pilots to “bid” for certain trips or days off. The more senior your are (the longer you have been working for the airline), the more likely you are to have your request awarded. This means that if you are a very senior pilot and enjoy having weekends off and doing the flight to New York, you could well end up doing this most of the time! Junior pilots (those low on on seniority list) will have less control over their lifestyle, and in the early years will end up operating the less popular routes.
This example is over a one week period without any annual leave or special requests.
Tuesday: London Heathrow (LHR) – Las Vegas (LAS)
Wednesday: OFF day down route (in Las Vegas)
Thursday: OFF day down route (in Las Vegas)
Friday: Las Vegas (LAS) – London Heathrow (LHR) (Arrive Saturday Morning)
The time you get off down route depends on how long the previous flight was and what the rotation of the aircraft is. For example, if the airline only operates two flights to the destination each week, you will probably get a bit more time off down route than if there were daily flights.
Pilots Typical Short Haul Touring Roster
Monday: Checkin In 06:00 STN – EDI – STN – MAD Check Out 14:00
Tuesday: Check In 05:30 MAD – STN – RTM – STN Check Out 13:00
Wednesday: Check In 08:00 STN – ZRH – STN Checkout 15:00
Saturday: Check In 12:00 STN – GVA – STN – GVA Checkout 22:00
Sunday: Check In 13:00 GVA – STN – ABZ – STN Check Out 20:00
STN – London Stansted
EDI – Edinburgh
MAD – Madrid
RTM – Rotterdam
ZRH – Zurich
GVA – Geneva
ABZ – Aberdeen
A short haul day trip roster would be similar to that above but finishing back at your home base every night.
Short Haul Fixed Rosters
Some airlines like Ryanair and easyJet operate a fixed roster pattern. At Ryanair for example, most bases operate a 5 days on, 4 days off pattern. Many pilots at easyJet operate on a 5 on, 4, off, 4, on 3 off roster. This gives the pilots the ability to effectively plan their time off as they know what days they’ll be working in a years time. Some airlines like BA or Jet2.com operate a variable roster with no fixed pattern.
When do Pilots receive their roster / schedule?
Again, it depends on the airline. Some airlines issue rosters to their pilots a month before whilst at others it night only be a week or two. Typically, most pilots receive their rosters for the next month about half way through the current month. So for example, you would usually get your December roster around half way through November.
Some airlines reserve the right to change their pilots rosters right up until the day before the flight without penalty, whilst some airlines offer protection periods, where the roster can only be changed with the pilots permission or through financial incentives.