What is family life like as an Airline Pilot?

We get asked this question a lot, it is difficult to answer accurately as it totally depends on the airline, the fleet you’re on within that airline, industrial agreements, regulatory body (Flight Time Limitations) and the airlines route network.

Short haul for many airlines does not involve nightstopping. This means the pilot goes to work and always returns the same day, although you could fly through the night, but always returning home without staying over in a hotel. So in this case the job is more like standard, variable shift work. 

He/she will do early and late shifts, the difference being the days can be quite long and it is tiring. In terms of days off you can expect anything from 8-12 days off a month. These may be just single days off. You can expect up to 4 early starts in a row. 

Some short haul pilots do stay away and can do ‘tours’ this can involve several days away, flying every day but staying over in different locations each day normally. A pilot can be away up to 5-6 days, but that is unusual, normally it is just a couple of nights. 

Long haul pilots have a different lifestyle, they will always get more days off in a month than short haul pilots as they will need more time off to re-acclimatise themselves if they have flown through multiple time zones. 

The difference with long haul flying is every time you go to work you stay away and this can be 1-2 nights or anything up to 10-14 nights, however, once again that length is rare and probably only applies to some cargo airlines and business jet operators. A typical long haul pilot will go to work for 3-5 days and then come home again and will be due for at least 2 days off. 

So long haul pilots are away more nights than short haul but get more days off at home if that makes sense.

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