Real Answers from Real Pilots


For how long do pilots have heir vacation in a year?


It depends on the airline but most pilots start with a week or 2 the first few years and it increases over time maxing out to 6-8 weeks.


It varies with the airlines and how long you have been at an airline, but generally speaking it is between 2-5 weeks.

How does the pay work for vacation time? Do they pay a certain amount of flight hours per day?

Yes Brian. Again it varies from airline to airline but it’s usually around 3-5hrs a day.


At United we get paid 3.25 hours of pay per day of vacation. Of course this varies by airline.

Thanks guys!

At SkyWest we can set a fixed amount of credit hours (between 2.5 and 4.2) to get paid per vacation day.


I am a college soccer referee on the side and am wondering if i can strategically allocate my vacation days to days on which i am assigned games during the fall soccer season (august, september, october).

That in mind, how soon in advance can you bid for vacation days ( a month? a week?). Could i split all my vacation days into single dates like that? Or would i just need to bid for as many weekends off as possible during the soccer season



As with many things in the industry it depends. My last airline did not allow you to bid individual days only weeks but my current one does. Most airlines allow you to bid for your vacation at some point in the prior year (at mine it’s Sept) for the upcoming year. Most will also allow you to trade vacation if there are any available days or weeks. The biggest thing to keep in mind, again as with EVERYTHING at the airlines, SENIORITY is king. Regardless of what the company allows if you’re junior you’ll probably be looking at the scraps that are left until you move up some. Same thing as bidding for weekends off.



We bid our vacations all at once for the entire year and can only bid them in week long increments, meaning that I get three weeks off for the year. Of course the summer months go very senior, but the fall months are usually available.

As a new hire and for the first few years you will most likely find it very difficult to have weekends off.


Hi Chris and Adam. The monthly working schedule of pilots is very attractive as I enjoy free time at home. While I am sure I have the aviation bug, I’m also sure I have the travel bug - which led me to the vacation section of the forum. Say you wanted to take a 2-3 week trip to Europe or maybe South Africa or Australia with your family/SO? Is this possible at this point in your career? If so, how long would you say it was until you were awarded such liberties? If not, what is the main thing that stops you (assuming you guys like to travel - its not for everyone)? Would proficiency issues ever be a factor after taking a 2-3 week vacation? Can vacations be even longer/have to be shorter?

I was also wondering if you could give me an opinion on the following. I’ve held a PPL for almost 10 years and have been in a desk job for the past 5 years. Over the last five years, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about flying and, eventually, be at the controls of a major airliner (Im 28 yo). I am looking to make the career change in 2019 to start at ATP (need to save $ in 2018). I haven’t been able to travel much since I started my career five years ago and I’m hoping to enjoy a few weeks travelling here or there in the upcoming year of transition. I’m hoping to enroll and do the major portion of my time at ATP in the summer months as I live in the Bay Area and don’t want to deal with too much weather interfering with the practical portions of the education. Upon completing ATP’s program, would it be a bad idea to take a month off to travel before getting back to flying and building time? Do you see any proficiency issues with newly acquired skills…or, anybody questioning dedication (in any interview - whether it be for a time building job or airline job down the road)?

I definitely understand the relentless consistency pilots need to put into mastering skill sets, but also those phases of transition from one big thing to the next don’t come around often in life. I remember rushing and worrying through my last one after college to get the job I have now, only to wish I had taken a month to go see someplace new.

All the Best,



With some seniority, a two week trip would probably be possible, but is pushing it. I can’t see possibly being able to take three weeks off straight, unless it was in the dead of winter and I bid all of my vacation for that time period (most pilots want summer vacation).

Proficiency issues should not be an issue with a few weeks off of work.

I personally think that taking a month off of flying, right after completing your CFI training, is a bad idea. Your skills will be newly learned and you need to consolidate them, taking a month off will not do that.



Different airlines offer different vacation policies but as Chris said 3 weeks off, until you’re super senior probably isn’t likely. But again, depending on the time of year, seniority vacation etc anything may be possible. I needed some time last year and my company gives 2 weeks at my seniority. I took vacation the 1st and 3rd week and bid for the 2nd week as my days off in between and got my 3 weeks. Again I was lucky. As for your question, honestly I don’t travel much which was one of the reasons I moved to Hawaii. I fly for a living and travel for work. When I’m off the last thing I want to do is get in an airplane. I personally hate being a passenger. When I’m off, I’m off and enjoy my home life. That said I know many pilots who travel constantly. To each their own.

I also agree with Chris regarding a break before training. Best to start when you’re still sharp but in truth I had a break prior and was fine. Just had to step up fast.



You guys are awesome. Thanks Adam and Chris.