Flying with Captain/First Officer

Since when you fly, there will always be another person with you (captain or first officer depending on your position), how often do you fly with the same person? Do they set your schedule up so you usually fly with the same person, or is it completely random or somewhere in between?


At United we have over 13,000 pilots, so it is actually pretty rare to fly with the same pilot very frequently. I would say that in my ten years here I have flown with a captain that I have flown with before maybe a dozen times or so. We use a preferential bidding system, so everybody puts in their preferences and the system puts out schedules that are optimized for each pilot’s desires as much as possible.

At other airlines that are smaller or use pre-constructed schedules it can be more common for the same two pilots to fly together.


so over the years you just become really good at meeting new people I guess. haha. I assume everyone is pretty use to it or it could just be a bunch of awkward meetings all the time.


Hawaiian’s a lot smaller than United so we do on occasion fly with the same people. Also you find people at certain seniorities bid similar trips so again you will sometimes see the same faces. Regardless there’s nothing awkward about it. We’re professionals doing a job. While it’s important we “get along” bonding isn’t necessary.


Following up on this conversation, is the experience pretty consistent working with one person versus the next? I guess I’m asking if you ever end up working with someone who has a personality type that just doesn’t mesh well and you can’t wait for the flight to be over and hope to never have to see that person again. And on the flip side, really jive with another person and then hope you get to fly with them again. Does this ever cross your guys’ minds?


I believe if you talk to any pilot they’ll say they have people they love to fly with and those they don’t. I also think most pilots would agree the vast majority of pilots you fly with are very affable but there’s a always a few people who just make this job harder than it has to be. At Hawaiian FOs are actually able to “no fly” Capts on their bids. Capts however cannot. As Capt (therefore a leader) we’re expected to mentor the problem children.

I had been at Hawaiian a while and a good friend of mine got hired about 2yrs after. Every time they were a assigned a trip they would call me and ask “how’s this Capt?”. They called me one afternoon and asked about a particular Capt and I said “eh, I’m really not a fan”. They asked me why and I honestly couldn’t give them an answer. I had just gotten so spoiled flying with my friends (I had some seniority at that point) that anyone who wasn’t fell into the “meh” category.


Absolutely. Pilots are like any other group of people, not everybody will always get along. There are some guys I really enjoy flying with, some I am ambivalent towards and one that I will absolutely never fly with again.

Thanks for the input!

Hi Chris,

You mention pilots putting in their “preferences”. What does that consist of?




“Preferences” are exactly that, the types of trips that a pilot desires to fly. We use a computer system that has various bidding choices available and tries to honor seniority as much as possible. Some people prefer red-eyes, so they ask for that, others prefer SAN overnights, or four day trips, or any other combination of trip types. The computer system will look at these requests and try to get pilots and their desired trips lined up as well as possible.



Here’s a screenshot from a YouTube video:

PBS runs an algorithm to award you a legal line by honoring your bid preferences in a top-down, left-to-right fashion.