british airways pilot

What Does A British Airways Pilot Roster Look Like?

The Pilot Roster

I often get asked about a pilot roster. Your roster, or schedule, is your life. A roster determines your working days and days off. Including the flights, you’ll be operating, layovers, and standby duties. In today’s post, we’ll look at a typical roster at British Airways, specifically at London Heathrow (LHR).

Your roster will be subject to legal rules on flying hours and also any union agreements for your specific airline, in British Airways’ case this would be BALPA (British Airline Pilot’s Association).

Understanding the Roster

The roster is the monthly plan that schedules pilots’ duties. It outlines the number of flight hours, destinations, aircraft registrations, hotel information, days off, and standby duties. Understanding your roster is a key component of an airline pilot’s work-life balance, enabling them to plan personal activities and downtime around their work schedule. Though don’t expect any of those capabilities whilst you’re junior (new to the airline)!

At British Airways, rosters typically come out around the beginning of the previous month, giving pilots approximately one month to prepare for their duties in the upcoming month. For instance, the roster for July would be released around the first week of June.

Bidding: Bidding Matters

British Airways, like many other airlines, employs a bidding system. This means pilots can express preferences for when they’d like to work and which destinations they’d prefer to fly to. At British Airways, each pilot must complete a certain number of hours work per month. How each pilot achieves that number is down to them.

In British Airways’ case, pilots can bid for day trips (home the same night), short tours (2 days away from home) or longer tours (3 or more days away from home). Each pilot will have a preference depending on their family circumstance and where they live! The system will take into account each pilot’s request in seniority order. In essence, when you’re senior, you can write your own roster, and when you’re junior, expect to get nothing you bid for.

The system doesn’t accommodate all requests, but it does aim to be fair and take pilots’ wishes into account. Everyone was once junior at British Airways, hence the coined phrase “You’re only junior once!’.

Seniority: Moving Up the Ladder

Seniority is a crucial factor that influences a pilot’s roster, in BA, seniority dictates everything. Your roster bids, leave, when you get your command, everything, absolutely everything is dictated by seniority. The faster you join a seniority based airline, the better as with time you will slowly gain seniority. As of 2023, British Airways is hiring lots of new pilots, those who joined in only February 2023 are already at 70% seniority, on their fleet (meaning 30% of pilots are junior to them), unprecedented! You can prepare for your interview here.

New pilots, or ‘junior’ pilots, will have less control over their schedule, particularly in the early days of their careers. Everyone starts somewhere, and with time, junior pilots will accumulate seniority and have more influence over their rosters. 

A Peek Into A British Airways’ Pilot’s Roster

Below is a sample of two random junior British Airways pilots on the A320 fleet during the summer schedule, of course anonymised. This is the kind of roster that you can expect when you are new to the company and during the summer or busy months (from April to October).

To simply explain, each green block is a trip. When a green block is only one day, or a day trip, the green block will extend over one day. When the green block extends over 2 or more days, it’s a tour (nights away from home). On each trip you will see a three letter code and a red number. The red number means the number of flights on that day.

For example, pilot 1 on the 4th has OTP and a red 3. They will fly 3 flights ending in OTP (Bucharest). They will stay the night in OTP, have a day off in OTP (as the day is blank) and return to LHR (Heathrow) on the 6th with only 1 flight back.

Pilot 2 has a day trip on the 5th with a red 2, meaning they will fly to Lisbon then return to Heathrow. The next day, on the 6th, they have another day trip to IBZ (Ibiza) and return to Heathrow.

Days that are blank (white) are days off at home base. Days that are blank (green) are days off down route at the destination.

LB – Type of leave so pilot 2 has some leave during the month.

TS, WR, Blue numbers – Unimportant until you join the company and will not be explained here.

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British Airways Speedbird Pilot Academy

British Airways needs pilots. So much so, that they have decided to finally invest in a cadet pilot programme akin to the Prestwick and Hamble days. This time, it’s called The Speedbird Pilot Academy. British Airways will sponsor up to 100 cadets, and fully fund their training right the way through to joining the airline. This includes living expenses! In this post, we’ll take a look at what the Speedbird Pilot Academy has to offer. This includes the opening date, application requirements, and some valuable tips to help you prepare for this exciting step in your career.

British Airways Speedbird Pilot Academy: Application Details

The much-anticipated Speedbird Pilot Academy is set to open its doors to aspiring pilots on September 19th, 2023. The application will be open for only one week and could close earlier or open longer depending on how many applications British Airways receives. The programme is expected to reopen on an annual basis as British Airways anticipates needing a constant flow of cadets.

You can expect to hand in a copy of your CV, motivational questions, an online interview, a capacity test, a group assessment and a two-on-one interview down at headquarters is the usual recruitment process for British Airways. As part of the cadet scheme, you can also expect a checking and maths style online test, testing your ability to be accurate and fast! You can expect to earn c.£34,000 during your first year after you qualify. Whilst it doesn’t sound like much, you can expect another £10,000 per year in allowances (time away from base etc.) and your salary to rise exponentially reaching over £100,000 within your first 10 years. Considering I paid over £120,000 for my licenses, I’d say it is a good deal! Thus, British Airways, rightly so, are extremely selective over who gets in.

BA has selected two flight schools to train their cadets, FTE Jerez and Skyborne. If successful in getting on the programme, you will attend one of these two flight schools that will train you from zero to hero. They will take you all the way up to and including type rating. After which point you will join British Airways to continue your training on the short-haul fleet. Once joining British Airways, you can expect to complete around 40 – 50 sectors with a training Captain before you are “released to fly the line”.

Application Requirements

Before you embark on this incredible journey, there are some important criteria you must meet to be eligible for the program:

Age: Applicants must be between 17 and 55 years old to apply and must be at least 18 years old to commence training.

Educational Qualifications: You should possess a minimum of 6 GCSEs graded A to C or 5 to 9, including subjects such as Maths, English, and a Science. Equivalent qualifications will also be considered and assessed by ECCTIS.

Language Skills: Proficiency in English is essential. For non-native English speakers, you will need to provide a certificate proving that you have achieved an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 5.5 overall, with no individual score falling below 5.5. Ensure that you take the Academic test, not General Training.

Passport and Residency: A valid passport that permits unrestricted worldwide travel is required. You must also have the right to live and study in the UK without the need for sponsorship.

Height Requirements: Your height must fall within the range of 1.57m (5’2″) to 1.90m (6’3″). Height will be accurately determined during the assessment process. If you exceed the upper limit, you may still send in an application but may be required to undergo a functionality check, essentially sitting in a cockpit to check you can fit.

Medical Certification: Applicants must be able to obtain and maintain a UK CAA Class 1 medical certification with no restrictions, meeting British Airways’ medical criteria. Details can be found on the CAA’s official website.

Background Checks: Before training commences, you must successfully complete referencing and pre-employment checks, providing satisfactory UK and international Criminal Record Checks. Also be prepared to submit criminal record background checks for any country you have lived in over the past 5 years.

Beyond Technical Skills

While technical skills are undoubtedly necessary for a pilot, their behaviors and attitudes truly set a British Airways pilot apart. British Airways prides itself on its unique culture, and its pilots are known for their passion and enthusiasm in pushing the operation forward and acting as ambassadors for the company. Below are some qualities that will make you a standout candidate:

Passion and Motivation: You should demonstrate an unwavering passion for aviation and the motivation to excel during the training program.

Calm Under Pressure: The ability to remain composed and make sound decisions under pressure is a crucial attribute for a pilot.

Problem-Solving Skills: Pilots must possess a strong problem-solving ability, as quick thinking can be critical in challenging situations.

Team Player: Collaboration and teamwork are essential in creating exceptional experiences for passengers and colleagues onboard.

Top Tips to Prepare for the Speedbird Pilot Academy

Preparing for the British Airways Speedbird Pilot Academy is a significant undertaking and there will be A LOT of competition But with determination and the right mindset, you can do it. Here are some top tips to help you prepare:

Brush Up on Numerical Skills: Mathematics is a fundamental part of aviation. Take the time to review your mathematical skills to ensure you’re comfortable with the calculations required in flight. There is no indication of a mental maths test, but being comfortable with mental maths will make your job as an airline pilot easier, especially the 3x table!

Prepare for Interviews: Expect rigorous interviews during the selection process, both online and in person. Be ready to discuss your passion for aviation, your problem-solving abilities, and your ability to work in a team. I suggest using the STAR format and having a few stories you can tell. Here is a list of interview questions that have been asked in recent British Airways pilot interviews.

Physical Fitness: Maintaining good physical health is crucial for pilots. Consider incorporating regular exercise into your routine to stay in top shape. This will help your mental capacity, and also prolong your Class 1 medical. 

Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated on the latest developments in the aviation industry. Follow the British Airways corporate site, know what they are investing in, know roughly how much profit they’ve made this year, know who the senior leadership is.

Simulator Experience: If possible, seek out opportunities to gain experience in flight simulators. This can help you become more comfortable with the cockpit environment. Though not necessary as a cadet, it can help demonstrate your passion. Please email me at if you would like a recommendation. I do not get kickbacks or commission so any recommendations are genuine. 

Practice English: If English is not your native language, practice it regularly to improve your proficiency, especially in speaking, listening, and aviation-specific vocabulary. British Airways is a British Airline operating in the U.K and worldwide. It’s imperative your English is impeccable, for both your colleagues and passengers.

Prepare thoroughly!

The British Airways Speedbird Pilot Academy is a remarkable opportunity for aspiring pilots to launch their careers with one of the world’s most prestigious airlines. With an exciting future ahead and a commitment to diversity and excellence, British Airways is finally ready to welcome a new generation of pilots into its ranks. If you meet the criteria and possess the right attitude, this could be your chance to soar to new heights in the world of aviation. Mark your calendar for September 19th, and prepare to make your aviation dreams take flight with British Airways. Best of luck to all future Speedbird pilots!

Feel free to email me at should you have any questions. 

Good luck!

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