EasyJet Captain Story

"An easyJet captain gives unparalleled insights into what life's like operating in the commanders seat at one of Europes largest airlines"
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An EasyJet captain has kindly given us an unparalleled insight into what life’s like operating in the commanders seat of one of Europes largest airlines. This easyJet pilot wishes to remain anonymous in order to be totally honest and transparent about all aspects of life for pilots at the company, which we fully understand.

Company, Position & Base?

I’m a Captain with EasyJet based in London

Can you summarise your job role as an EasyJet Captain?

I operate the Airbus A320 series, flying passengers safely & efficiently around Europe.

 

Example of a typical “day in the life” of an EasyJet Pilot?

I bid for earlies so my alarm tends to go off anywhere from 3am -5am. Anything past 5am would be considered a luxury. A quick cold shower to shock myself into life followed by a 30 minute drive to the airport.

We used to have crew rooms, but we now walk directly from the car park to the aircraft. It’s a 10 minute walk from my car to staff security, where we go through exactly the same procedures as passengers. There’s a 50/50 chance the security team will try to take my pre-made yoghurt away from me. I check on an app where our aircraft is parked and then walk through the terminal to the gate. As our report time is only an hour before the flight is due to depart, and report time is the time you need to be at security, there are sometimes already passengers waiting at the gate as I arrive.

I board the aircraft and say a very quick hello to the cabin crew, all of whom I’m unlikely to have ever seen before. They’re usually busy doing their checks, and I jump into the flightdeck to start preparing the aircraft & doing my own checks. The first officer will either already be on board, or be shortly joining. Again, the likelihood is that it will be a new face as my base is such a large one.

Technically, this is the first time we actually get a chance to look at the flightplan, however we also have a million other things to do at this stage so I usually load the plan up on my ipad during my walk from the car park to security, and have a scan through it as I walk through the terminal to the gate so I already know the big picture. Once you’re in the flightdeck there is so much going on and so many interruptions, it’s hard to focus on absorbing a 65 page flightplan, whilst also preparing the aircraft.

Myself and the First Officer will decide who’s flying the aircraft on which leg, otherwise known as ‘Pilot flying’. They’ll be responsible for physically flying the aircraft on that leg, from pushback to park (only caveat to this is the First Officer isn’t allowed to actually park the plane, that’s Captains only in my company). The other pilot becomes ‘pilot monitoring’. They’ll be responsible for managing the radios, the fuel checks, and you guessed it….monitoring the aircraft and the pilot flying.

Usually I give the First Officer the choice of which leg they’d like to fly, however sometimes there are reasons where it’s decided for us (Captains only landing restrictions, crosswind limitations – the Captain has higher handling limits than the First Officer) or where I would prefer to be the one handling the aircraft i.e severe weather.

We decide on how much fuel we want, taking into account any expected delays due to slots, weather or a variety of other things which could cause us to burn more fuel than the flightplan is telling us we’ll need. Whoever is operating the first leg continues to set up the aircraft, whilst the other pilot will jump out for a quick walkaround to inspect the outside of the aircraft. The planes are inspected overnight by engineers, and again before pushback by ramp agents, however as pilots we still always do a walkaround before each flight.

Once both pilots are back in the flightdeck and the cabin crew have completed their safety and security checks in the cabin, we have a ‘brief’. This consists of standing or sitting in the cabin together, usually making introductions as at this point we’re all strangers, and then discussing an overview of the day (weather, flight times, which cabin crew are working where). As part of the brief, I’m also checking that all my crew are fit to fly.

Once that’s done, we’ll be good to start boarding the passengers. In the flightdeck, we’re still busy at work. Getting ATC clearances, ensuring everything is programmed into the aircraft systems correctly, running our performance calculations on our iPad, and briefing each other on the departure. 

Once all the passengers are on board and our performance figures are calculated, we can close the door and push back. So far since the moment we step through security, it’s been pretty full on, so weirdly it’s quite a relaxing feeling when the cockpit door is now closed and we’re now moving in the aircraft.

Short taxi out to the runway, usually followed by a long wait at the hold point due to congestion, then we’ll be departing towards our destination.

After takeoff, autopilot will be engaged usually anywhere from 100ft to 1000ft, sometimes higher if it’s a quiet day and the pilots have briefed a bit of manual flying. It’s usually a busy workload for both pilots navigating out of London airspace. The radios are busy and there are constant heading and altitude adjustments to make.

Once In the cruise, things quieten down a little. We’ll usually take our headsets off for comfort, and run through a few checks. If the cabin crew are on the ball, it’s just after this time that they’ll bring our breakfast in!

The cruise is spent getting to know one another a little bit, with intermitted checks on the aircrafts systems and occasional PA’s to update the passengers on our location and progress.

Around 100 miles before top of descent, we’ll run through the approach together and brief how we’re going to fly it. We do this so we’re both sharing the same mental model, which makes it much safer should the pilot flying stray from the approach he actually wants to be flying.

Once we’re on the ground, I’ll park the aircraft on the gate. Both pilots immediately have ‘flows’ they’ll be doing – pressing certain buttons in certain orders, and then we’ll run checklist to confirm we’ve pressed and pulled the right things, and the aircraft is safe for groundcrew to approach (most notably the engines are turned off!).

We usually only have around 30 minutes from this point until we are due to be pushing back for the next sector, so we’re both now preparing the aircraft and our ipads for the next flight. Contrary to what people may thing, the time on the ground for us at pilots is far busier than the time in the air. It’s often why you may not see the pilots come out and say goodbye, because of the high workload we have to get the plane prepared for the next flight before the passengers from this flight are even off the aircraft (either that, or they’ve just done a landing they’re not proud of and don’t want to face the music 😊 ).

All the same procedures on the way back to London. Our days will either be 2 sectors i.e we go home once we land back into London, or 4 sectors if they’re shorter flights. So we may land at back at base, then have another 2 flights to operate before heading home. Occasionally, we have nightstops whereby we’ll operate a few flights and end up staying away from base, but the majority of our duties start and end at our base.

Once we’re done for the day, we either hand the aircraft over to the next crew if it’s going straight out again, or we shut the aircraft down and walk back to the car park. It’s at this point that we all check out rosters to see if anything has changed for the next day.

Cruising back towards London during sunset

What does an easyJet pilot roster look like?

easyjet-pilot-roster
easyJet pilot roster example

Why did you choose to become an EasyJet pilot & what path did you take to get here?

I’d always been obsessed with anything that flew. Whilst airlines weren’t necessarily always my goal (RAF was) they did provide an appealing career path.

I went through a large training school on a sponsored scheme with easyJet, gaining an MPL license (Multi-Crew Pilots license) in the process. This was a relatively new path when I went through it, but nowadays it’s becoming much more commonplace with lots of large schools now offering the same course and license type.

Essentially the course took me from 0 hours (although I did have a few hours of flying experience before) to the front seat of a jet in 18 months. The course was tagged with easyJet from day 1 and I’ve remained with them for my career. I started as a first officer, then progressed through to a senior first officer, then became promoted to Captain a few years ago.  You can read my story as a First Officer here.

For more info on different paths to take, see book here on ‘How To Become An Airline Pilot in 2024’

Sun rising behind us as we climb over the Pyrenees mountain range

2 favourite aspects of being an easyJet Captain?

1 – I’m a little strange in this respect, but I enjoy the days where there are challenges to overcome. Days where things go wrong (weather, technical issues etc) and I need to really engage my brain and the team around me in order to have a positive outcome. It’s days like this where I walk away with a real feeling of fulfillment and achievement. I like having my skills and training put to good use and a bog-standard Alicante and back where everything goes swimmingly, doesn’t engage me enough.

2 – Being allowed to hand fly the aircraft. It’s quite rare in the world of major airlines for pilots to have as much freedom to handfly the aircraft as we do. Hand flying essentially means we disengage all the automatics (autopilot, autothrust etc) and manually fly the A320 like a Cessna.

Many major airlines have rules stipulating that their pilots can’t hand fly above certain altitudes (some as low as 500ft) and must have an autopilot engaged. Whilst I can understand why on the front of it having autopilots engaged above 500ft may seem safer (most accidents these days are due to pilot error) and it does increase the workload for both pilots, I’m a strong believer that as pilots we need to keep our manual flying skills sharp in order to handle emergencies effectively.

Some emergencies will automatically disengage the autopilots, others actually require us to turn them off and fly manually. Who would you rather be flying your plane in one of these emergency situations……a pilot who’s spent the last 5 years shooting every approach with full automatics on and essentially just monitoring the aircraft, or a pilot who regularly practices manual flying and therefore should hopefully be more accurate with the flying, and also have more mental capacity whilst doing it?

Whilst all pilots are required to briefly fly manually once every 6 months in the simulator, it’s not an extensive amount and I believe manual flying in the real aircraft is great for keeping the brain engaged and your skills honed.

Obviously, we are all restricted with RVSM airspace in that above FL290 we do legally need an auto-pilot engaged, but technically between this level and the ground, at easyJet we are free to fly the thing properly. This does come with a few caveats i.e conditions have to be suitable, workload has to be manageable and both pilots have to be thoroughly briefed and ok with what’s going to happen. A busy approach into London during bad weather is not a suitable time to hand fly and I don’t believe the company would appreciate any of its pilots making the choice to do so.

Flying a manual approach over the South of England on a lovely summers day in an A320 (usually getting to turn right over my house too!) is an incredibly special feeling.

3 – The question says 2 favourite parts but heck, my 3rd favourite thing is being a Captain (and not in a narcissistic way!). It’s really nice being able to set the tone for the day (which in my case is laid back, friendly & chilled out, but at the same time very aware of everything going on). I spent many years as a first officer and noticed how much influence the captain’s tone and personality has on the day. A negative, rude or stressed-out captain can make any day feel extremely long for the entire crew. It’s nice not having to worry about how the day is going to go, I know I can just be me.

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Two great thing about being a pilot at EasyJet

1 – The ‘just’ culture. In essence, if you make an honest mistake and hold your hands up to it, the company will have your back. This culture is of utmost importance in the aviation industry so that we can learn from each others mistakes and therefore make flying even safer.

I feel fully confident that I could be very open about my mistakes with easyJet, and they’d handle It as you’d expect from an airline that’s fully behind the just culture. Unfortunately, I know for a fact that there are still airlines out there that don’t incorporate this just culture, meaning pilots will be far less likely to report mistakes or issues as they’ll fear for their job. Usually if a pilot makes a mistake it’s a mistake that other pilots are at risk of making too, so it’s much safer to create a culture where pilots can report these mistakes and the causes can be investigated. We’ve had many events at easyJet whereby a mistake has been reported and procedures have actually been changed to prevent other pilots making the same error. This is exactly how aviation should be.

2 – Another great thing is the flexible working contracts offered by easyJet. Pilots can choose between various forms of 50% and 75% part time contracts, so long as it also works for the company. I think easyJet are a bit of an industry leader here and it’s definitely the direction the industry should be heading in.

flightdeck
drag race


What do you find the 2 most challenging aspects or impacts of being an easyJet Captain?

1 – Lack of social connection at work. At my base, everyday you’re working with a new team. It’s very rare I fly with any of the same cabin crew twice, and even rarer to fly with the same first officer twice.

I don’t think there are many other professions where every single day you’re working with an entirely new team, most of whom you’ll likely never see again after that day. It may suit some people but I’d much rather see familiar faces each day and have the ability to foster relationships at work.

This ability to build relationships or see familiar faces is further hindered by the removal of our crew room (to save money) which was an area we used to congregate before a flight to run through flight plans and do our brief. It gave us a chance to see other members of the airline we recognized as all the crews would be meeting there, or at least the managers who’s desks were also there. Nowadays, we walk directly from the car park to the aircraft by ourselves & meet the other crewmembers on board. We see no office staff and usually nobody we remotely recognize. As pilots, we spend most of the day locked in the flightdeck then all walk straight back to our cars after work and will likely never see those people we’ve just spent the day with.

2 – Lack of routine and structure – Every work day starts and ends at a different time. This means setting your alarm for a different time every morning and if you’re on earlies, this can often mean waking up at what feels like the middle of the night (3-4am). Likewise on lates, you’re often getting back from work in the early hours of the morning, sometimes you actually get stuck in the morning rush hour traffic on the way home, having battled through the evening rush hour traffic on your way into work the previous day and then flown through the night. That’s never a nice combination! You can actually be switched from earlies to lates in the same week of work….this plays absolute havoc with your circadian rhythm.

I unfortunately know the detrimental impact that the above sleep disruption can have on the human body from my own research and experiencing the effects first hand. It’s not healthy or sustainable in the long run without serious health implications. There’s a good article here going into lots of detail on the health impacts of the job. I’m unsure where the future of the industry will head with it as for now the hours seem to only be getting longer and less stable.

In terms of stability, although airlines are probably classed as one of the most ‘stable’ rosters in aviation, I still don’t know my working times until the middle of the month before. Even once they’re released, the roster often changes (sometimes substantially) closer to the work day itself or even on the day, so it’s really hard to plan for anything outside of work on a workday.


Cruising down towards Greece during sunset

Most surprising part of the job for you?

Very much linked to the above; One thing that still surprises me to this day is how rare it is to fly with the same person twice.

Another is the impact the job can have on every orifice of your life. It really is a lifestyle not just a job. You have to design your life around your work roster.

I’m surprised at how safe air travel has become these days, given how many planes are flying at any one time and that they’re essentially metal tubes flying 38,000ft above the ground. I’m also surprised at just how much time the planes spend up there! Most of our fleet are in use back to back all day everyday. As soon as you finish your duty, there’s often another crew waiting to depart with that aircraft again. The whole system is very impressive and a testament to the manufacturers and engineers.

A special view of The Alps

Most memorable day on the job as an EasyJet captain?

A day in my first year as a Captain which pushed my skills as a pilot and human to their absolute capacity (& maybe beyond!). As a high-level summary; As I arrived at work I got changed to fly to a different destination that I had planned for, now one that I’d never heard of. We had a medical emergency just as we were about to take-off and had to return to stand to be met with the fire brigade and paramedics.

When we did finally get going, the destination airport was surrounded by severe thunderstorms, most of which our weather radar wasn’t picking up properly. Whilst trying to pick our way through the weather on the approach, we had to do a 180 degree turn on two separate occasions due to the severity of the turbulence encountered. We could hear passengers screaming from inside the cockpit! It really wasn’t a nice experience.

When it was clear we weren’t going to be able to land at our destination due to these storms, we initially looked to divert to Venice, however all hell was breaking loose there due the bad weather that our weather radar wasn’t displaying to us. As soon as we arrived in their airspace, we heard other aircraft calling low fuel but not being able to approach due to the weather, so we changed our plan again and diverted to a smaller airport on the east coast of Italy.

This small airport refused to refuel us until a specific document had been reviewed and signed by our headquarters back in London. Due to multiple technical issues on both the airports side & our HQ’s side, this paperwork ended up taking over 3 hours to complete, by which point the airline wanted me to just bring the aircraft with all the passengers still onboard, back to London for the night.

That was easily the most stressful 3 hours of my life. I spent the entire 3 hours trying to manage what was happening on board the aircraft (200 passengers and our crew) along with the bigger picture. I’m pretty sure I had at least 1 phone to my ear throughout, liaising with various departments of our HQ and the ground staff at this small airport who barely spoke English. I was being as visible as I could be in the cabin, reassuring our passengers and checking how they were, whilst also inviting passengers into the flightdeck to help them kill some of the 3 hour delay. It was then followed by trying to persuade our company that I believed we could in fact get our passengers to their destination that day as I could see a clear gap in the weather.

In the end we were allowed to make the most of that gap and managed to drop the passengers off at their intended destination (albeit a few hours late) and we got back to London just inside our absolute maximum legal flying hours that day (also after a breakdown of an aircraft servicing vehicle once we did finally get to our destination and were in an extraordinary hurry to depart again to stay within the legal hours!).

It was one of the biggest tests I’ve had at work and probably in life. It felt like everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, but I was really proud of how our team onboard, and different departments all came together that day and got the job done. I still recall the feeling when I got back into my car at the end of that day and realized it was the first time since leaving my car 14 hours earlier that I’d been alone.

You can read the full story in the Captains Diary section here.

Sunrise departure

If you could go back to the start of your career as an airline pilot and do anything differently, what would it be and why?

I’m not one for regret so my honest answer is that I wouldn’t do anything differently. I do feel privileged to be in the position I’m in. I would however have been very interested to see how my life turned out if I’d waited another year for the RAF to start recruiting again before I applied to my airline training school as the RAF route was one I initially wanted to pursue.

It may also have been fun to try some other varieties of flying beforehand, such as Private Jet flying like Tyler, or Sightseeing Flying like Karl, or even African Bush Flying like Tariq.

I also would love to have tried my hand at flying helicopters for a living, and do something like Charlie who wrote the article Heavy Lift Helicopter Pilot Life, like Gav wrote about as a Rescue Helicopter Pilot, or like Raiyan wrote about as a helicopter charter pilot.


Most commonly asked flying question you get at a party? What’s your answer?

Do planes land themselves?

Yes and no. 99% of the time the pilot will be manually landing the aircraft. When the weather is extremely poor visibility however, our aircraft are capable of landing themselves but only if a number of conditions are met both within the aircraft and on the ground at the airport.

Airports don’t like it as these conditions mean aircraft have to be spaced further apart on the approach so it reduces the airports capacity. For pilots an ‘autoland’ is usually actually more work than just a normal landing as there’s more computer systems to monitor, and the added stress of landing onto a runway that you can’t actually see.

Do pilots sleep on planes?

Occasionally. If you’re genuinely fatigued then you shouldn’t be at work in
the first place. But do a couple of 12 hour early starts back-to-back and any
human is going to feel tired. There’s 2 of us in the cockpit so we take
advantage of this by using “controlled rest” to mitigate the tiredness. Essentially
one pilot has a nap in the cruise whilst the other one assumes control of the
aircraft and radios. The cabin crew onboard will be told that one of the pilots
is having some rest so they can call through to the cockpit every 15 minutes to
ensure the other pilot is still ok.

Read Pilot Bible’s own post here for more about pilot tiredness

Another sunset in the cruise


Would you recommend your career path to budding or current helicopter pilots right now? Any advice for them?

If you’re absolutely sure it’s the path you want to go down, I’d 100% recommend it.

If you’re unsure, I’d recommend a read of this book. It’s a great resource that gives an insight into the life of a modern day airline pilot and how you can get there if you wish to.

Diary of an airline Captain can give you further insights into the daily life, so you can see if it’s really something you want to pursue.

You can also read other ‘day in the life’ posts here to get an idea of what else is out there.

Descending into Egypt


Rough flying hours per month

80-90 flying hours if full time


Salary of an easyJet Captain?

A full time easyJet Captain takes home a total package of around £146,000. This is comprised of around £110,000 basic pay (paid regardless of whether you fly), with the rest made up of a mixture of flight pay and bonus. This total package is about to increase in mid 2024 to around the £165k mark.

What do you want your life to look like in 5 years time?

Part time flying with my main priority becoming a family and other business venture outside flying. Whilst it’s a good job that pays well, I don’t want to be tied to it forever and would like to earn a secondary form of income.  

What does a “bad day at work” look like for you

A large ATC slot delay that we can’t do anything about. Especially if it’s one that keeps getting pushed backwards.

What does a “great day at work” look like for you

A sensible start time. A friendly, fun crew. Some sort of challenge in the day that we have to overcome, followed by some manual flying into London Gatwick on a beautiful clear afternoon 😊


What impact does the job have on your mental or physical health? 

Instead of giving a very long-winded answer, I’d refer you to this article which touches on all the major points.

What strategies do you have for maintaining positive mental & physical health that could be useful to other pilots?

Exercise is key for me. I try to go to the gym regularly and swim at least once per week. I also try to also get outside for a walk every morning or evening depending on which shift pattern I’m on.

Paying close attention to my nutrition and not eating the processed meals that are served to me onboard the aircraft has made a large positive impact.

Another one is working on my sleep hygiene. Sleep is so imperative for us and it’s something I struggled with for years in this job. Through things such as ‘wind down time’ before bed, stretching, cutting caffeine in the daytime, turning my phone off a few hours before bed, no laptops before bed and various other bits, my sleep has improved massively. 

What mental health support is available to you in the workplace? Do you think this is adequate? Any ways you think it could be improved?

Easyjet offer EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) along with Peer support programmes in conjunction with BALPA. They also offer free one off counselling sessions from time to time.

Whilst I think it’s a good start, I believe the whole industry needs to change their outlook on mental health and invest a lot more of their resources into the topic. I’d refer you back to the article here regarding pilot mental health which also includes solutions for improvements.


I’d like to thank Cpt Anonymous for taking the time to answer our questions and for hopefully giving you an insight into what life as an easyJet Captain is really like!

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One Response

  1. Fantastic insight into all different aspects of being a pilot i appreciate you giving up your time to give great detail into what life is like for you.

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