Sick Days Pilot


I have a concern about how sick days work in being a pilot. I believe pilots have a “sick bank” that can cash in days you can’t make it to work and still get paid for it.

However my concern is what if you do not have any more “sick days” left in your bank. Because I usually get sick out of nowhere and it scares me that I might have to call out work if i’m out of sick days.

Because when I get sick it’s always extreme and never anything minor that you can just rub off and still go in for work.

(1) So would the company get mad if you have to call out even if your out of sick days and still can’t go in?

(2) What if your mid 3 day trip and get sick could you end your trip and go back home?

Thank you!!


First and foremost, your employer will never want you coming to work sick. So if you have sick time in your bank, you call out and it’s deducted at the daily rate which varies by airline.

If you don’t have sick time left to cover, you can still call out but you will not get paid for the time you were off.

In terms of calling out, the rules vary by airline so I’ll give you an example based on Skywest policies. The most straight forward call out is no sooner than 2 hours prior to report time. When you call out, they still have plenty of time to notify a reserve pilot to fill the trip. If you’re on a trip and it can be trickier based on if you’re in a domicile or not. If you are, they can pull you and put a short call or ready reserve pilot on the rest of the trip. If you’re away from a domicile, they will deadhead a reserve pilot out and put you on a deadhead back to your domicile.


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Does it hurt you if you call out a lot as long as you can actually prove if your sick?

I would never call in a sick day or call out for being sick if i’m not sick but i worry because if i’m genuinely sick and i have to call out for a while i don’t want to lose my job.


Airlines are major corporations which thousands of pilots. They don’t “get mad”. As long as you can substantiate your illness you’ll be fine. Once you run out of sick days you simply won’t get paid. Id be less concerned with getting fired and more with simply paying your bills when you’re not getting paid if it’s as often as you say.

Further I’d be even more concerned about the job itself. Pilots work long days, interact with many people (incl FAs who interact with hundreds) and often have limited sleep. All of which add up to a recipe for getting sick even if you don’t usually. You might want to look into the reason for your frequent illness and get it under control.



Not only would you be depleting your sick bank and forcing unpaid leave, your chief pilot may have some questions for you. Reliability is an important aspect of professionalism.

I think Adam is hitting a good point. You may want to get to the root of the issue, why are you so prone to getting sick so often?


Call out frequently enough and it’s going to hurt your reliability. Airlines don’t want you to come to work sick but they also want reliable employees. I can’t speak for all airlines but where I work, if you use up all your sick time and still need to call off frequently, you’re eventually gonna get a call from the chief pilot asking questions.

Not to get off topic, but what is a “reserve, ready reserve, short call” pilot? Is that a bottom-of-the-ladder job? Or a pretty sweet job?

I like to use the substitute teacher analogy. When a teacher calls out sick, then the substitute is called in to cover the class. A reserve pilot is like a sub in that if a line pilot needs to call out, there is staffing available to cover the flight. Long call, short call, and ready are different types of reserve with different call out timelines. It varies by airline but as an example, long call is 12 hour minimum notification to report for duty; short call is a 2 hour notification, and ready is sitting at the airport waiting for a call. Ready is not fun.

Whether it’s a “sweet gig” is subject to personal opinion. Sometimes you never get called on reserve…sometimes you get called everyday. When manning is good, Reserve is typically nice because you are less likely to be called.


That depends entirely on the airline and their staffing models. Most like to run somewhat lean which means you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting called on Reserve. If however staffing is good (meaning there’s plenty of Reserves) and you’re senior (since pilots on Reserve get called in reverse seniority) chances are you’re spending most of your time getting paid to chill.