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Why Airline Pilots Love Flying to Certain Cities

Airline pilots have the potential to fly all around the world, but some destinations are more popular than others.

Pilot executing pre-flight procedures in a commercial airliner cockpit before takeoff. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Pilots fly all around the world and many aviators are drawn to the profession in part due to the opportunity to travel.

Airline pilots bid for different trips and schedules, and it is unsurprising that some cities are more popular than others.

Do Pilots Get to Explore Cities They Fly To?

Sometimes, pilots will only spend an hour or two at a particular airport and then continue flying to another city. In these cases, pilots cannot leave the airport, and sometimes do not even leave the aircraft.

However, when a pilot has a layover, they are given free time in the city. A pilot’s ability to explore the destination depends on the layover though. Layovers can be as short as 10 to 12 hours but can last up to 72 hours. A pilot with a 12-hour overnight layover likely will not have the time to do much exploring, but 48 hours in a city gives a pilot plenty of time to see the sights.

Why Pilots Love Particular Cities

There are many factors that draw pilots to particular cities, and they naturally vary from one pilot to another. However, there are some common elements that pilots tend to prefer.

Cities with a centralized downtown or entertainment district tend to be very popular among crew members. Pilots do not have their own transportation during layovers, and walkability is an important factor. Similarly, having convenient public transportation or taxi and rideshare services can also increase the attractiveness of a city to airline crews.

Layovers in warm destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico are also loved by many pilots. The reason is obvious, and these trips can be especially popular for pilots based in cold cities during the winter months.

A Hawaiian A330-200 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Some of the factors that make a particular city popular among pilots have nothing to do with the city itself. For example, a particular may offer a longer layover in Tokyo than in Seoul. While a pilot may enjoy spending time equally in both cities, they may prefer the city with the longer layover. Along the same lines, the location of the crew hotel and its proximity to activities can also impact how much a pilot likes a given destination.

What Are Pilots’ Favorite Things To Do in a City? 

Pilots enjoy many of the activities that any traveler would. Some pilots like to explore the food and beverage scene or enjoy the nightlife, while others like to stay fit and find places to go for a run or hike.

There are also times when pilots will spend most of their layover at their hotel getting rest, but pilots can also pack their layovers full of sightseeing and exploring.

Cities That Pilots Love Flying To

While a pilot’s list of favorite cities depends greatly on their airline’s network, their aircraft type, and personal preferences, there are some destinations that are widely cited as favorites among pilots.

 New York

Anyone who has visited New York knows that there is always something to do. The hustle and bustle of the Big Apple offers something for every type of traveler. It is easy to get around on public transit, and those who have a crew hotel in Manhattan have easy access to the city by foot.

Washington, D.C.

Layovers in Washington – and particularly one at the centrally located Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport – are also popular among pilots. The city has a beautiful downtown area and many of the museums and activities are free.

An American Airlines aircraft at Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA). (Photo: Shutterstock)

Houston

Texas’ largest city has lots to offer to visitors, including airline crews. The city is favored by pilots for its world-class galleries and museums, urban parks and high-quality diverse food scene.

Hawaii

It’s no surprise that Hawaii layovers are a favorite among airline pilots. Whether it’s the bustling city life in Honolulu or the relaxing beaches of Maui, this sun-filled domestic layover destination is loved by airline crews.

Tokyo

Japan is a hot travel destination and that extends to airline pilots. The Japanese capital is rich in culture while also being a massive modern metropolis. Getting around on public transit is also exceptionally easy and affordable.  

Amsterdam

With its distinctive canals and iconic bicycles, Amsterdam is a beautiful city to visit. As one of the most walkable cities, Amsterdam is a favorite among pilots and tourists alike.

Any New Destination

Whenever an airline adds a new layover city – and particularly when they add a new international destination – it is typically very popular in its first few months, as pilots want to try it out. While trips to some of these cities remain in high demand, others dwindle in popularity over time.

Andrew Chen

Author

  • Andrew Chen

    Andrew is a lifelong lover of aviation and travel. He has flown all over the world and is fascinated by the workings of the air travel industry. As a private pilot and glider pilot who has worked with airlines, airports and other industry stakeholders, he is always excited to share his passion for aviation with others. In addition to being a writer, he also hosts Flying Smarter, an educational travel podcast that explores the complex world of air travel to help listeners become better-informed and savvier travelers.

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