With people all around me getting hit with colds and fevers, I randomly wondered if pilots can simply call in sick when you need to and have someone fill in, or is it just an inconvenience you have to deal with?
Yes, pilots can call in sick and in fact the FAA encourages pilots not to fly when sick. When a pilot calls in sick, typically a reserve pilot gets activated to cover their flying. It is better to call in sick before a trip starts, but I have seen pilots make the call mid trip as well when they just weren’t feeling up to it.
When you work you accrue “sick time” which goes in your “sick bank”. As Chris said you’re encouraged to call in sick but if it happens too often and you run your bank dry. You can still call in sick if it’s empty but you won’t be getting paid. Far too many pilots take “sick-cations” and then end up working while they’re ill because they have no more sick time and need the money. Aside from being irresponsible it’s inconsiderate since you’re lock in a small cockpit breathing the same air, touching the same controls for hours and hours. You may have picked up this is one of my peeves and the reason I own stock Emergen-C!