The Pilot Roster
One aspect of a pilot’s life that I often get asked about is the schedule or, as pilots know, the roster. Your roster is your life. A roster determines the working days and off days for pilots, which includes the flights they’ll be operating, layovers, and standby duties. In today’s post, we’ll delve into a typical roster at a UK airline, specifically focusing on EasyJet, at London Gatwick (LGW).
Your roster will be subject to legal rules on flying hours and also any union agreements for your specific airline, in Easyjet’s 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, 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!
At EasyJet, rosters typically come out around the middle of the previous month, giving pilots approximately two weeks to prepare for their duties in the upcoming month. For instance, the roster for July would be released around mid-June.
Preferencing: Your Preferences Matter
EasyJet, like many other airlines, employs a preferencing system. This means pilots can express preferences for when they’d like to work and which destinations they’d prefer to fly to. The system doesn’t accommodate all requests, but it does aim to be fair and take pilots’ wishes into account. E.g. you can preference lates or earlies, 2 sector days, 4 sector days, or night stops. At airlines like British Airways, you can ask for specific routes, or layovers in specific destinations.
The airline will try to accommodate as many preferences as possible. However, operational requirements may mean that not all preferences can be met all of the time.
Seniority: Moving Up the Ladder
Seniority is another crucial factor that influences a pilot’s roster. In the aviation industry, the seniority system is widely recognized and impacts many aspects of a pilot’s career – from the type of aircraft they fly, to their base location, to their roster.
At EasyJet, seniority doesn’t matter, pilots who have been with the company longer, or ‘senior’ pilots, get no priority when it comes to preferencing. However, at British Airways and other seniority-based airlines like Virgin Atlantic, seniority is everything. This means senior pilots are more likely to have their roster preferences met. 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 an EasyJet Roster
In the image above, you’ll see an actual roster for an EasyJet pilot. It will give you a glimpse into the variety and complexity of a pilot’s working month. The three letters codes are airport names e.g. LGW = London Gatwick.
LSBY – Late standby
ESBY – Early standby
D/O – Day off
ADTY – Airport standby
Becoming familiar with the rostering system is a part of every pilot’s journey, from aspiring aviators to seasoned pilots. Although it can seem complex at first, with time, you’ll become an expert at managing your schedule, ensuring you maintain a healthy work-life balance while conquering the skies.