BALPA is the professional association and registered trade union established to represent the interests of all UK pilots
Simon Morris, BALPA NEC Member

Working over Christmas is one of the downsides of being a pilot. On longhaul, pilots can be rostered on trips that depart before Christmas itself and so be away on the 25th, or depart on the 25th, or arrive home sometime during the 25th itself. On shorthaul there can be “there and backs”, or as in longhaul trips that are away. During my 30 years as a pilot, the number of trips involving working at Christmas at some point has definitely increased. 

Over the years I have had to work across Christmas several times on both SH & LH. The flights themselves nearly always have a happy vibe with both cabin and flight crew trying hard to create a Christmassy feel often wearing Santa hats or reindeer antlers and fairy lights round the flight deck door. I always remind the kids onboard to look out the window for Santa! 

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In our company we are able to “bid” for Christmas trips, it’s often safer in some ways to volunteer for somewhere you would like to go rather than perhaps be assigned somewhere you wouldn’t. I’ve been lucky enough by and large to wake up in some amazing destinations on Christmas Day. Being away at Christmas – sometimes for 4 or 5 days in destinations without family means your family has to adapt… either holding festivities without you or by delaying Christmas itself.  

On most trips, we able to take our families with us on a standby basis, it’s a nice perk but it can still be stressful worrying if there will be room on the flight for them, especially on the way back! 

Downroute the hotels often put on some kind of Christmas lunch, and one year they even gave all my children presents from Santa which was a nice touch. For those of us working it means we have to forgo a Christmas sherry…  It is always safety first for pilots and that means no drinking if we are operating flights Christmas day itself. 

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All in all, Christmas away can be fun, it's interesting experiencing Christmas in different countries and seeing how they celebrate, but it can also be lonely and we can all miss loved ones. This year, after years of COVID groundings, most pilots are happy to be back flying and reconnecting people… especially at this time of year. But it is always nice to come home and celebrate the festive season with the people you love.

A Merry Christmas to you all.  

Posted on 22 December 2022

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