Do pilots get bored on long-haul flights?

John Cox, Special to USA TODAY
Published 12:00 p.m. ET May 31, 2019


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Question: On the Singapore Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Singapore, how many flight crews are aboard and what are their duty hours on a typical long-haul flight?

– David, Oklahoma City

Answer: There are two full crews on board flights of this duration. One crew flies the takeoff and initial part of the flight, and then the second crew takes over for the remaining part of the flight and landing. 

Depending on the length of the flight, each crew member may have eight or nine hours of duty time.

More: Now flying from NYC: The world’s longest flight


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Question: On long, trans-Atlantic/trans-Pacific flights, how do pilots spend their time? Does one group of pilots stay awake for the duration or are there shifts? What if they need to use the restroom?

– Zack, Philadelphia

Answer: Pilots have rest periods during long flights. There are always two pilots on duty. If a pilot that is on duty needs to use the lavatory, there are procedures to bring another pilot or a flight attendant into the flight deck to guard the door while the pilot is in the lavatory. Pilots that are on a rest period may be able to utilize a crew rest facility to sleep.

Question: On long flights what does the crew do to avoid boredom after the flight computer has taken control of the aircraft?

– Peter T., Suffolk, Virginia

Answer: There are routine tasks that keep a flight crew occupied on long flights. For example, there are position reports to air traffic control and navigation checks.

Question: What options do I have on a long-haul flight when I run into a tough situation with the cabin crew and need it addressed?

– ARM, Houston

Answer: If you feel that a crew member is not performing as they should, after you arrive at your destination write the airline providing the date, flight, time and if possible the name of the crew member. I would not suggest attempting to address it in flight. 

Question: How do commercial aircraft handle CO2 buildup during long flights?

– Zuk, Sachse, Texas

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Answer: Air is exchanged in a modern airliner every two to three minutes. There is no buildup of carbon dioxide.

More: Ask the Captain: How is fresh air delivered to the airplane cabin?

John Cox is a retired airline captain with US Airways and runs his own aviation safety consulting company, Safety Operating Systems.

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