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How many days off do pilots get per week?

What Is a Commercial Pilot’s Schedule Like?

Becoming an airline pilot offers many advantages that a typical job doesn’t offer. Airline pilots get to travel across the world and meet people from all cultures and walks of life. They also get more control over their hours than office or retail workers, but understanding flight assignments and how many hours pilots can fly is essential to keeping a healthy work/life balance.

If you’re getting a commercial pilot license in Arizona to start your exciting career as a professional pilot, this guide to how many pilots work out schedules can help you decide what types of flights and airline companies are the right fit for you.

Working Out Airline Pilot’s Schedule

Most airlines use a bidding system to organize their scheduling, allowing pilots to “bid” for certain time slots or flight paths. Generally, these bids cover a month at a time, meaning that if you’re unhappy with your current schedule, you can bid for other slots during the next bidding cycle.

Airlines typically use one of two bidding types: line bidding and preferential bidding (PBS). Line bids allow a pilot to bid for an entire month’s flying hours and days off.

PBS systems let pilots select preferences, such as certain days off, flight time, overnights in certain cities, and morning or night flights. The system then generates schedules based on pilot preferences.

Factors Influencing Airline Pilots’ Work Schedules

In an ideal world, airline pilots can choose their hours, flight crew, and type of flight and get what they request. However, pilots must compete against other pilots to get certain flight schedules. Most pilots prefer certain types of trips, which are heavily contested, meaning that not everyone gets what they want.

Airlines have mechanisms to help more pilots get the flight plan they’d like.

Senior vs. Junior Pilots

The main factor in pilot scheduling is seniority. Senior pilots get the first pick of schedules, allowing them more flexibility in their work hours. While a junior pilot gets less pay per hour, they also get more inconvenient time slots and flights.

Airline transport companies, such as United Airlines, calculate seniority from the day they hire a pilot. Unfortunately, pilot seniority doesn’t transfer across airlines, which is why almost every pilot sticks with a particular airline for their whole aviation career.

Seniority affects many aspects of an airline pilot’s career, including how many vacation days they can take, how much they earn, the seat they can take (first seat vs. captain), and flight time. Most senior pilots prefer booking a long-haul flight or two per week, which covers as many hours as multiple regional flights, but with less in-between administration.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a set of rules and guidelines regarding a pilot’s schedule. These guidelines, known as 14 CFR Part 121, establish the maximum flight time that airline pilots fly within a certain period.

The FAA established these rules to try and limit fatigue and ensure that pilots arrive for their duty time rested and prepared to perform. Crew members and pilots flying long hours make more mistakes than rested pilots, so enforcing these rules makes flying safer for everyone.

Reserve Schedules

Many issues can affect an airline’s schedule. For example, the crew may call in sick, a flight engineer may detect a problem with the aircraft, or air traffic control can ground a plane due to poor weather. Airlines and pilots work around these issues by having reserve schedules.

Reserve pilots have certain assigned hours where they may not need to work but must be ready to stand by in the event of an issue. Typically, a junior pilots can expect to be a reserve pilot more often than a senior pilot due to the unpredictability of the schedule.

Any pilot working for a regional airline can also expect to be a “ready reserve,” where they must sit at the airport to provide last-minute coverage and immediately take over a flight.

How Hours Impact Pay

A commercial pilot’s pay depends on how many hours per month they fly. While airlines provide a “minimum monthly guarantee, ” they allow pilots to work over this guaranteed minimum, provided they stay within the FAA regulations.

Reserve pilots tend to have better pay per hour to compensate for the lack of additional hours they would have earned with scheduled flights.

Typical Airline Pilot Hours

According to FAA regulations, an airline transport pilot may fly 30 hours per week (or seven consecutive days) or 100 hours per month. However, these limits don’t account for pre-flight planning, administration, preparing flight plans, and other tasks on the ground. Generally, short-haul pilots will spend more time on these tasks than long-haul pilots.

A mid-level pilot will fly around 75 hours per month and spend 150 extra hours on other duties.

When Do Airline and Commercial Pilots Receive Their Schedules?

Airline scheduling software usually provides a schedule a month in advance before the first flight of the cycle, while others notify pilots just a week or two in advance.

Are you excited to start flight training with the best flight instructors in Arizona? Learn what to expect in a commercial pilot flight school, then contact us to start your journey to becoming a commercial pilot or certified flight instructor!

DEC, First Officer and Cadet Frequently Asked Questions

Pilots with at least 950 hours of Part 121 or qualifying Part 135 time can apply as a Captain. Successful candidates will earn Captain pay until they are able to attend upgrade class. (Currently there is no delay.)

I have Captain experience at another airline. Do I get credit for my experience?

Under a new Letter of Agreement, pilots may bring their longevity at their previous Part 121 carrier to Piedmont and get credit for pay purposes. For example, if you have three full years of service at CommutAir, Endeavor, Air Wisconsin or another Part 121 carrier you would come to Piedmont on Step 4 of the Captain pay scale ($157.50/hour). Verification is required, of course.

Does being a DEC affect flow time?

No. The flow is based on company seniority only.

What bonuses are available for DECs?

Pilots with 950 or more hours of qualifying Part 121/135 time will earn an additional $15,000 in bonuses. The bonus structure would look like this:
$15,000 sign on
$15,000 for Direct Entry Captains
$7,500 E145 type rating bonus (if qualified)
$15,000 after 12 months of active service
$30,000 Captain upgrade bonus
$40,000 Captain upgrade + 1 year bonus
$40,000 Captain upgrade + 2 year bonus
$25,000 flow to American bonus

How long will I sit on reserve as a Captain?

Direct Entry Captains will fall on the seniority list based in DOH. As with every airline, that means an FO hired in 2021 who upgrades in 2022 will hold a line before a DEC hired in 2022. Because of zero pilot hiring in 2020 and early 2021, Piedmont’s fleet expansion and contractual flow, DECs hired at Piedmont can expect more rapid movement up the seniority list as the fleet expands.

Will I get my base of choice as a Direct Entry Captain?

PHL and MDT are available immediately; CLT is approximately 5 to 6 months.

Will I fly as a First Officer until upgrade?

Direct Entry Captains are currently going straight to upgrade training. If training is delayed for any reason, you will continue to earn the highest CAPTAIN rates in the industry even if you fly as an FO. Our goal is to get you in to upgrade training immediately.

First Officer

Is there a training delay at Piedmont?

Currently there are no delays to enter training. Training and building seniority can begin as soon as the first officer candidate’s ATP/CTP course is completed.

I have a year of experience at another Part 121 airline. Do I qualify for additional pay?

Under a new Letter of Agreement, pilots can get credit for their time at their last 121 employer. If you completed one full year, you would start at Piedmont on Step 2 of the First Officer pay scale ($97.50/hour). If you completed two full years, you would start on Step 3 of the First Officer scale ($105/hour).

How long will a new first officer have to sit reserve?

After years of training, you’re ready to launch your pilot career and start building your hours and seniority. At Piedmont, as we grow there will be more flying available for all crew members. Trips are usually available to reserve pilots, so they can continue to build time for upgrade.

What is the current time to upgrade to captain?

Our current upgrade time is approximately 18 months.

What is a typical flight schedule for first officers?

The trips vary and are bid each month. Typical trips are three to four days in length with two to three days off. All pilots receive a minimum of 11 days off per month, and contractually, at least 65% of hard lines will have a minimum of 12 days off.

After joining Piedmont, what is the current flow time to American Airlines?

Currently our estimated flow time is five years. Under the new pilot contract agreement, captains will flow through to mainline at five years or be paid at top of scale ($213.75/hour) until they flow.

What is the current bonus structure and payout times?

How many hours of Part 121 time are needed to get the Near Entry Captain $10,000 bonus?

To receive the extra $10,000 bonus, you must have at least 600 hours of Part 121 or qualifying Part 135 time.

Does Piedmont currently sponsor work visas or E3 visas?

We do not currently sponsor work visas. Candidates must be a United States citizen or have a permanent resident card with unrestricted travel in and out of the United States.


When are applications being accepted for the Cadet Program?

Applications for the Cadet Program should be completed via after you complete your Commercial Multi-Engine with Instrument Rating and 400 hours of total flight time. New cadets can be admitted into the program with 500 hours of total time.

As a cadet, do I have to work at a particular school or have a particular flying job?

No. Applicants can build their time anywhere, any way they want, if they are gaining a minimum of 60 hours a month.

As a cadet, is there pilot mentoring?

Being a cadet provides you with an opportunity to network with Piedmont pilots, Piedmont pilot recruiters and other cadets. Cadets are also invited to various exclusive cadet events.

How long does it take a cadet in the program to become a Piedmont First Officer?

The length of the cadet program depends on how many hours the cadet has when they enter the program, how many hours built as a cadet, and how many hours needed for ATP minimums.

Does Piedmont still pay for the ATP/CTP course for cadets?

Yes. Once ATP minimums are reached as a cadet, Piedmont will pay for the ATP/CTP course, including the FAA ATP written exam.

I applied for the Cadet Program on AirlineApps and received a message that Piedmont is not currently hiring cadets. Will I need to reapply once the Cadet Program officially opens?

No, you will not need to reapply. Although we are not yet interviewing, if an applicant has applied for the program through, the application will remain active until interviews begin. We recommend that applicants re-visit and update their application on a regular basis.

As a cadet, am I eligible for company benefits?

Cadets are not considered employees and do not receive company benefits. Cadets will receive financial assistance as they build time and will be invited to exclusive Piedmont cadet events.

I am interested in becoming a Cadet, but still have hours to build before reaching the 400-hour minimum. How can I be involved and stay connected with Piedmont Airlines in the meantime?

Piedmont has an active Cadet Ambassador Program that requires no minimum number of hours to join. The program was established for future cadet applicants who are interested in networking and attending events alongside pilot recruiters to spread awareness about flying for Piedmont. Ambassadors have the opportunity to network with other aviation professionals around the country and will receive invitations to exclusive Piedmont events.

Do airline pilots get vacation?

A look at if commercial airline pilots get paid vacations to

Rightly or wrongly, when most people think of an airline pilot’s life, they think it is one permanent vacation! The rise of instagram pilots — who seemingly sit on a beach 24/7 — showcase a working environment that’s one big holiday.

So, do airline pilots get any real vacation time? Yes. While most of us enter into the aviation industry with the understanding that the job comes with long hours and little time off, the truth is that pilots are entitled to paid vacations just like everyone else.

It’s not always been this way, though. Pilot unions have fought hard to secure paid time off away from the cockpit, and many pilots still won’t have vacation time in the peak summer months. In this article, we’ll take an overview of pilot vacation time — how much do they get, and what do they get up to!

Do airline pilots get paid vacation time?

Like many shift workers, commercial airline pilots are expected to work all hours of the night and day, weekends, and throughout the holiday seasons. But do they get legal vacation time?

The short answer: Yes — but it’s been an uphill battle.

Two passports

The long answer: Monthly flying schedules at many airlines varies considerable across the year. Airlines generally try to get away without paying their pilots any vacation time, by offering their pilots unpaid leave during low-flying seasons…

…This has resulted in court cases, and lengthy union battles. As a direct result of this action, most commercial pilots around the world now expect some paid time off:

—> Pilot vacation time varies considerably from airline to airline, with the majority of pilot leave being unpaid time off. When pilots are paid for their leave, it can be only a token amount due to how pilot pay is structured.

—> Globally, pilots are a highly unionised workforce, and by exploiting a skills shortage pilots have managed to extract paid vacation time above legal minimums in many countries.

—> While new pilots typically start without any leave, pilots in countries like the USA often gain additional weeks paid leave depending on their time at the company, up to a maximum of around 5 paid weeks a year.

—> Pilot salaries are complicated, with a pilot’s basic pay making up only a small portion of their earnings. In Europe, where paid vacation time is mandated by law, companies managed to minimise vacation pay by exploiting this loophole until 2012.

—> After a 6-year court battle, the Supreme Court eventually ruled that European employers must pay pilots a proportion of their actual earnings for their time off — so EU pilots now do get paid vacation!

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