By Jennifer Cairns 09 Jan 2023 6 min read

Day in the life of an Airline Captain

We spoke to Sam, a Captain on the A320 series, based in London with a short haul carrier. Sam gives us his highs, his lows and some advice for anyone aspiring to become a Pilot within the aviation industry. 


The Day to Day...

Each crew will usually operate 2 to 4 sectors per day across Europe, flying between 5 and 14 hours per day, usually ending up at our home base. 

As someone who preferences early shifts, my alarm will usually go between the hours of 3-4am. After a cold shower to shock my brain & body into life, it’ll be a 45 minute drive to the airport to meet & brief the crew. As a Captain you set the tone for the day, so it’s important to convey positivity & empathy, whilst creating a very open and relaxed atmosphere during the brief.

One pilot will do the walkaround, whilst the other is programming the flight into the aircrafts computer systems. Once all the passengers are onboard (and we’ve hopefully slipped under the radar of whoever dishes out ATC slot delays) we’ll launch from the airport and usually head South to one of our European destinations, typically catching a spectacular sunrise on the way down!

After absorbing the views in the cruise over a spot of breakfast, we’ll programme the descent and approach into the aircraft, followed by an interactive brief between the pilots about how the approach will be flown.

After an absolute greaser of a landing 😉 and saying goodbyes to our lovely passengers, we’ll have 25 minutes to get the next passengers onboard and the doors closed for the next flight, so it’s all hands on deck!

The above is an ideal day. In reality, every day is totally different and there will be constant challenges thrown your way. This is part of what makes the job so rewarding. The training we get is the best in class and sets us up for success, but you can’t anticipate every threat or challenge, which for me keeps the job exciting. 

Best bits…

Views - Not much beats watching the sun rising over the Alps at 38,000ft

Manual flying - Luckily at my airline, manual flying is encouraged if the situation is appropriate. It’s important for keeping your skills honed, also extremely rewarding landing a 60 tonne aircraft without the help of auto thrust or autopilot 😊

Responsibility - As a Captain you have a huge breadth of responsibility. The welfare of all your passengers & crew, along with the safe and efficient operation of a multimillion pound aircraft is on your shoulders. Whilst this can be stressful (especially when things aren’t going to plan), It can be very rewarding when done right.

Worst bits…

3am alarms! Enough said. 

Impact on social & family life – This is definitely one to take seriously. Airline pilots are essentially shift workers who also spent time away from home. You’ll never have a ‘normal’ social life and can often feel out of sync with most of society. 

Remaining quite sedentary for most of the day – Healthy eating & ensuring you exercise when you can outside of work are important. 

Having to leave a sunny destination just 25 minutes after you land there ☹ 


What is your advice for anyone looking to join the industry as a Pilot?

  • Go to a major, well recognized flight school that has a partnership with the airline you want to be part of. Whilst it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever get a guaranteed job before training, you’re setting yourself up with a higher likelihood of success. Check each individual flight schools selection criteria for the specifics of what you should be working towards i.e required grades in school. 
  • Maintain interests, hobbies & passions outside of the job. It’s easy to let them slip as the job can be all – encompassing. 
  • Keep things outside of flying – Air Crew Accommodation
  • Be prepared to work hard, both in groundschool, flight training, and once you get on line. It will have an impact on your social life and various other parts of your life, but if you’re passionate enough and genuinely enjoy flying – it’s a great way to earn a living. 

For more day in the life of a pilot stories, check out Sam's blog, Pilot Bible, and if you have any questions about the above, please feel free to send them over to Sam at 

Also – if you’re crew looking for accommodation, check out Sam's side project Air Crew Accommodation – it helps crew find the most suitable accommodation and now has a discounts hub!

Don't fortget to check out the latest Pilot jobs and apply today!