Coronavirus: Airline Pilots Talk About Flying During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Here’s how airline pilots are handling what has been called the biggest crisis ever to strike their industry.

What is it like to be a pilot during a global pandemic? We searched aviation message boards, Reddit and other online sources to find out. Below a variety of pilots tell us their stories and experiences of flying in the age of COVID-19.


Given the hysteria, It’s only going to get worse. This is honestly the only option for salvaging our industry. Hit the reset button. The virus peaks and starts to decline. They announce an aggressive deep cleaning campaign. Come back with a bang. They need to rip the bandaid off right now though. Otherwise just putting along for months with falling bookings and hemorrhaging money is just going to burn through cash even faster. This is a psychological virus more than anything. Xtreme87


“All depends on the outcome of this virus. If it goes away before the summer then life will be back to normal and hiring will be robust again. If it becomes a full-blown pandemic, then forget the furloughs. Airlines will start shutting down or severely downsizing. I hope it’s the first scenario. My airline overseas has already announced plans to stop hiring and a reduction in pilots. They will offer an unpaid COLA soon before furloughs begin.” NYC Pilot


“We had 104 no shows friday. A week ago there was 186 booked on the flight. Some people cancelled their tickets and only 6 people ended up traveling.” andrewJ123


“I feel like we’re just going to keep spreading this. Wealthy people aren’t going to stop traveling until they get sick. My company has been obsessing over this virus for weeks now but when it comes to pilots it’s just ‘I dunno, stay in your hotel room I guess?’” lfgbrd


“Regardless of how big of a health threat the virus really is, the damage to our industry will get worse before it gets better.” Bruno82


“I fly for a Canadian airline. The flights to the US are nearly empty. I had a flight yesterday that had a dozen people on board. The flights back to Canada are nearly full.” mr_ent


“[My] airline has been doing a great job. They send out a daily update on the virus and its impact on our operations and keep reiterating the CDC protocols to protect ourselves. They have complied with route cancellations according to the government and have been open about the impacts, at least thus far.” Anonymous


“Major conferences are being cancelled, and most companies are prohibiting travel to the worse areas, and encouraging people to travel less even domestically.

“I hope they get things under control, obviously, but it’s plausible that this will kick start a recession and negatively hit hiring.

“In the event major companies institute a straight up domestic travel ban, you’ll see furloughs, too.

“It’s also possible they will contain this and we’ll forget about it in 6 months. Probably the reality will be in the middle of these two extremes.” pilotjlr


“These are not normal times, people. We should assume nothing is off the table and I agree I think airlines being grounded country wide for some period of time is highly likely.”  braddmlewis


“Flew from PBI earlier today to ATL … 8 people on the 737 – 900 .. both facilities were empty … we have entered the twilight zone.” crjflyboy


“This just stings. I love big, beautiful birds made of human ingenuity and engineering, and to watch this industry collapse is awful. My thoughts go out to all affected. May the blue skies be traced with white contrails again soon.” SimonDanger


“Yes, industry is going to be in the dumpster for the next 3-5 years. We aren’t getting back to 2019 levels anytime soon,

Economic recession and pandemic fears to weigh heavily for the next several years.

It was good while it lasted.” PSU.DTW.SCE

Aviation notes on COVID-19

  • In light of the global panic about the coronavirus pandemic, airline bookings have plummeted by more than two-thirds in only a matter of days.
  • President Trump recently issued a 30-day ban on all flights coming in from Europe.
  • A pilot from New Zealand was refused a haircut after returning from a flight from Samoa—even though Samoa has no confirmed cases of coronavirus and New Zealand does.
  • At least two pilots have already been diagnosed with the virus: an unidentified United Airlines pilot in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and a cargo plane pilot in Alaska—that state’s first official infection.

About the author

Jerome London