Different types of flying are like different flavors of ice cream. Everybody has a favorite. Some like long-haul flights where they fly halfway across the world, or across an entire country or continent. Many pilots dream of moving up to bigger and heavier jets such as the A330, B777, or B787 to fly long hauls. On the other hand, a lot of pilots desire to fly short-haul because it’s a fantastic way to build knowledge and get plenty of hands-on experience.
As a pilot, you need to decide which kind of flying you prefer, long or short-haul.
Typically, long haul pilots are paid more as they require more experience and operate larger aircraft. They also fly for the bigger, national flag carriers. Benefits will be similar between long-haul and short-haul pilots, however, this depends on the airline and what location a pilot chooses to fly in.
A short-haul pilot will normally fly a few days together and not have as much time off. Conversely, long haul pilots usually have more days off due to restrictions, which means more time at destinations to explore. Also, because long-haul pilots get to fly all over the world in larger aircraft, they get to experience more exotic destinations and many different cultures in comparison to short-haul pilots.
Short-haul flights are usually under 4 hours so there are little to no overnights. More often than not you would return home at the end of the day. On the other side of the coin, long-haul pilots will overnight much more with a few nights at the destination. Trips can last from a few days to over a week, so a lot of time is spent away from home.
Long-haul pilots travel across several time zones, which can make it difficult to communicate with friends and family back home. For example, if a Pilot based in England flies to the Asia-Pacific region where there is a time difference of over 8 hours, getting in touch with loved ones when away from home is a lot more challenging to manage. But since short-haul pilots routinely return home every night, staying in touch is much easier for them.
Long-haul pilots get to fly all over the world in larger aircraft. As a result, they get to experience more exotic destinations and many different cultures in comparison to short-haul pilots.
Since short-haul flights are a few hours in length, there is no jet lag so you don’t have to spend your days off trying to readjust to the time zone. In contrast, long haul pilots have to deal with time zone changes which cause jet lag and is also the reason why long-haul pilots get more days off overall in comparison to short-haul pilots.
Long-haul pilots are less exposed to delays. If delayed, once outbound it generally only affects that flight as opposed to short haul where the pilot is dependent on the aircraft arriving on time for him or her to start their day on time. Also, delays can accumulate throughout the day, sometimes adding hours to a short-haul pilot’s finishing time.
The roster for long haul pilots will often be more attractive as they will have more time off, but often that time off may not be in their home country as they may have 48 hours or more away from home. A short-haul pilot’s roster can differ depending on the airline, as they don’t require as much rest period. Some may have 20/10 or 5/4 however they will fly most of those days. Others may have a full-time roster where their off days are scattered. This is more suitable if the pilot has a home base or is willing to relocate as most days they will finish at their home base. While short-haul pilots tend to have a busier workload because their flights are shorter and they work more days, usually by the end of the month all pilots will fly between 60-75 hours per month.
In conclusion, choosing to be a long-haul pilot or a short-haul pilot comes down to the lifestyle you’re looking for and your family situation. There are pros and cons to each option. You need to ask yourself if you prefer a routine and working regular hours or if you would rather work longer hours but have longer periods between flights. Everyone is different and if the opportunity arises, maybe you should try both.
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