BALPA is the professional association and registered trade union established to represent the interests of all UK pilots
Robin & Suki
Robin - BALPA member

I am not flying this Christmas because it doesn’t fall within my amended contract, a legacy of Coronavirus. I come from a family of shift workers (predominantly healthcare) yet cannot really recall my parents being absent at Christmas. I hope my children say the same.

I confess airline Christmases are brief and the perception that they might be spent in Tokyo or Hawaii not representative. My preference would always be to work New Year instead; who can say they are first to catch the first sunrise of a new year heading East in darkness?

Christmas is a variable concept even within short/medium haul. The Dutch have December 6th instead, many European nations focus on December 24th and the Jewish community don’t celebrate it at all. Meaning they might all expect to fly on our ‘Christmas.’ Throughout the period, air traffic control are more likely to respond in kind to a cheery ‘buon natale’ or ‘feliz navidad.’

Then there was the squash and squeeze returning from Tel Aviv (TLV to pilots) just before Christmas one year. We were fully booked, including for the first (and only time yet in my career) the maximum permitted number of babies on laps. Many were so keen to fly you could almost feel 200+ souls (as we traditionally refer to them) willing the landing gear up. Watching the UK appear five hours later, right on cue through ragged wisps of cloud with the snow glowing in darkness, stuck with me.

We may all complain about it or misunderstand its complexities, but face it: it’s a modern miracle. Let’s not take it for granted. Only Santa actually defies physics!

Suki Adams

I’ve just got back from Madeira, after spending the night in Tenerife. Madeira is notorious for having bad weather and very limiting approach restrictions and we weren’t even able to attempt a landing. The closest island of Porto Santo filled up with diversions very quickly so we had to go to Tenerife. We were all accommodated for the night and the next day we tried again. 

Although it was still quite windy we made it in, and it was so lovely to say goodbye to all the families who had got home for Christmas, both in Madeira and later the delayed passengers into Bristol as well. Flying this close to Christmas always seems to have added pressure; it’s so important to so many people to get where they need to be, and when there are complications it is especially wonderful to be able to deliver. 

This year in particular when people may have not seen their families for some time, I was very proud to be able to reunite them.

Posted on 23 December 2021

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