Our undercover captain reveals what it’s like to fly for a living.

What are the most irritating things about passengers?

There are two issues I would highlight here. First and foremost are passengers who, having checked in for a flight with luggage and passed through security in a timely manner, manage to arrive at the aircraft late. This is really annoying and frustrating for all concerned, particularly the other passengers who boarded on time and are keen to depart on schedule.

These latecomers cause a significant delay as the process of unloading their luggage for security reasons may have already commenced. On a long-haul flight, this can take 15 to 30 minutes depending on where the bag is loaded on the aircraft.

In addition, there may be a slot to meet – the time that the flight has been allocated by air traffic control to accommodate us in the busy airspace network. If you fail to meet this time then you go to the back of the queue and have to apply for a new slot. In some cases, this can result in a delay of an hour or more. So I would plead with you all to arrive at the aircraft in plenty of time. If you fail to do so, or even arrive a few minutes before departure, you may be denied boarding.

My second issue is when passengers expect something for nothing; here I am referring to upgrades. When they realise it is not going to happen, they often behave like naughty children and throw their toys out of the pram. I have heard all sorts of reasons and stories as to why they should be upgraded and my answer is always the same: “We are more than happy to upgrade you; how would you like to pay?”

Occasionally, when a flight is overbooked, upgrading will occur, and this is normally actioned at check-in. However, priority for these upgrades is usually given to the airline’s most loyal customers.

What is the most irritating thing about fellow pilots?

The environment we work in is different from most, in that every time we fly we are with different colleagues. In this sense, we are pretty good at adapting to a variety of personalities and situations. However, from a captain’s perspective, I found first officers who were trying to prove something and who came across as arrogant quite irritating. Conversely, thinking back to when I was a first officer, I found it irritating when the captain was dismissive of my opinion or input because they assumed I was just the new boy and knew nothing.

Over the years, we have had a significant amount of training in how best to communicate and value each other’s input, so these situations are few and far between.

What are the best and worst things about being an airline pilot?

The best thing, for sure, is being sat in an office with a wonderful view of the world, pursuing a career that provides great opportunities. I make no secret of the fact that the job is well paid and enables you to lead a comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle.

The worst bits are long hours, nights out of bed and fighting fatigue. In addition, many pilots dread their six-monthly simulator check. This is designed to ensure that our skills remain at the required standard and that our knowledge is up to date. It is stressful because a failure to achieve the standard will result in your flying licence being suspended and the need for retraining. In other words, your job is on the line.

Did you like wearing the pilot’s uniform?

Yes. I was proud of both the job and the airline. People notice you in uniform and show respect for what you do. That made me feel good.

If you have a question you’d like to ask our pilot, email [email protected]