How Many Flights Does A Pilot Operate Per Day?

Piloting a commercial aircraft full of passengers is pretty much the entire job description of an airline pilot, but how many flights do pilots really operate on any given day? The answer isn’t simple as there are a lot of different factors to consider, including Let’s take a closer look at a’regular’ day in the life of an aircraft pilot.

Nature of flights

No two flights are really the same, and for that reason, the number of flights pilots operate in a day largely depends on the nature of said flights, specifically if a flight is short-haul or long-haul. Long-haul flights are generally those that last beyond six hours.

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Indeed, pilots flying long-haul only operate one or potentially two flights each day, while those making short hops can even operate as many as four to five flights a day, and a turboprop pilot will operate even more. Of course, airlines and pilots must also keep flight duty limitations in mind while scheduling their operations, which may restrict the number of flights pilots can operate in a day.

The number of flights any pilot operates in a day depends on a wide range of factors. Photo: Getty Images

Duty limitation regulations

Aviation regulators around the globe have strict rules that dictate duty period limits for pilots to avoid fatigue and overworking. Regulations set by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are almost always adhered to in such cases to ensure There are a lot of different factors that dictate the maximum duty period for pilots, including time of day during the start of duty, past schedule, and the number of sectors, among other things.


Flight Duty Period (FDP) generally begins from the time a pilot reports for duty with the intention of operating a flight and ends when the pilot parks the aircraft at the gate after completing the final flight.

Below is a quick reference table that pilots usually use to find their duty limitation period before flights. It is worth noting that the given data is according to EASA standards and regulations, but the FAA’s rules aren’t too different.

Flight Duty Period reference table for pilots. Photo: EASA Air Operations Regulations

The first column indicates the time of day when the pilot reports for duty, while the other columns show the number of flights (sectors) to be operated on that day. Let’s consider an example wherein a pilot reports for duty between 06:00 and 13 : 29 pm and is scheduled to operate four flights on that day. In this scenario, the pilot’s flight duty period or FDP should end in 12 hours, as highlighted. Upon completing the FDP, pilots must rest for a minimum of 12 hours.


However, there is a provision in the rules which allows pilots short extension periods over their permissible FDP. Even with the extension, 14 hours is the maximum amount of time that pilots can spend on duty. It is due to such duty limitations, that ultra -long-haul flights (usually more than 14 hours in duration) have to carry reserve pilots on board.

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