This is totally dependant on which airline you work for, and whether you operate long or short haul flights.
As a rule of thumb, long hauler airline pilots will spend more time away from home than short haul airline pilots, but that’s not always the case….
Short Haul Airline Pilots
In my company, we can operate upto 4 short haul flights per day, but it will usually be starting & finishing at our home base. This saves our company money on paying for crew hotels etc and is much more efficient for our maintenance team who check over our planes each night. We’ll get a scheduled night-stop maybe once every few months, which will be for one night, usually on minimum rest (12 hours from when we leave the plane to when we have to be back onboard) so it’s far from glamorous.
Companies like British Airways tackle short haul slightly differently; With them you’ll be away on ‘tours’. Operating upto 4 sectors per day, but ending up in a different city each night. You can do 2-5 nights away from home, before returning to base at the end of the last day. Some pilots love these as they get duty pay per hour for the entirety of the tour (including time asleep!).
Long Haul Airline Pilots
When it comes to long haul….the game is changing. It did used to be the case of landing somewhere, sunning yourself for 5 days by the pool, then heading home. As far as I’m aware, trips like this are now few and far between.
It does vary depending on which fleet you’re on or exact aircraft type that you fly, but having looked at friends rosters from the major UK long haul carriers (British Airways, Virgin Atlantic) it looks like airlines are heading more towards 24 hours in any destination. This works for some people, but for others it’s not really enough time to sufficiently rest and enjoy the time there, whilst also getting prepared for the long haul flight back.
I do unfortunately feel that the glory days are gone, and long haul airlines have to now strive for cost cutting and efficiency over crew enjoyment in order to stay afloat.
Short haul airlines are having to do the same too. Although many European outfits do still do tours and give you time in new cities, it does all seem to be heading in the same direction of reducing the hours there to the legal minimum before the crew are back to work.
Virgin Pilot Recruitment (Taking applications at the time of writing this post)