Airline pilot explains what they really do while they’re in ‘cruise’ up in the air


‘I thought you guys had partners like in buddy cop movies’: Airline pilot explains what they really do during your flight

'Pretty much.'


Phil West


Posted on Jan 15, 2024   Updated on Jan 15, 2024, 2:46 am CST

An airline pilot answered a burning question that more than one passenger has had: What do airline pilots do when they’re in cruise mode?

They’re not napping, clarifies creator Pilot Elon (@pilot.elon), getting more than 324,000 views to a video he posted on Dec. 29. In it, he explains that as a regional airline pilot, his flight routes range from about 30 minutes to 2 and a half hours, so there’s not a lot of cruise time.

“Now, most of the time, we’re really just talking about the flight at hand and briefing weather, routing or anything else that might come up ahead,” he says.

But he adds, “Now, for the time we are in cruise, for the first couple of days, we’re really just trying to know each other.” He notes that flights are pretty standardized and pilots can coexist regardless of how much they have in common—pretty much like any other job.

“Now after a few days of talking, we’re either best friends are or usually just default to my usual … which is snacking.”

Commenters provided their own observations to add to the discussion.

“Married, kids, hobbies, union, contract, blah blah blah!” ventured one. “Day 1 done!”

“Pretty much,” the creator agreed.

“How long do you fly with the same crew?” another wondered.

“1-5 days usually,” he responded, “but once In a while I’ll get the same crew for like 2 weeks.”

Someone else suggested, “Best way to find out who you’re working with: ‘Did you hear what Trump said?'”

Another observed, “Wow I thought you guys had partners like in buddy cop movies.”

The Points Guy, in a 2019 article looking at cruise mode for longer flights with bigger airlines, noted, “It’s quite often said that the job of a pilot is very much like that of an anesthetist. It’s pretty busy at the start and end of the operation, but in the middle it’s a bit more relaxed. With the intensity of the departure complete, the atmosphere in the flight deck relaxes.”

But there are still things to do, include fuel and time checks every half hour. As that article clarifies, “By comparing the amount of fuel actually in the tanks against what we need to reach our destination as per the flight plan, we can calculate how much fuel we expect to land with. The time check also enables us to see whether or not the flight is progressing as expected. Losing time may indicate that the tail winds are not as strong as expected.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to the creator via TikTok comment.

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*First Published: Jan 15, 2024, 7:00 am CST