In a video, a Swiss International Air Lines crew flies an Airbus A340-313 (flight LX38) from Zurich to San Francisco. Then, they can be seen (I am not sure if this is on the very same day) visiting downtown and the Golden Gate prior to getting back to the airport for the return flight (LX39), which is scheduled for departure around three hours later.

The question here is:

How do airlines handle crew turnovers in long-haul flights?

Is it the same crew who is demanded to command the return flight? Or is there, oddly enough, a replacement crew in each destination airport? Or do they carry the crew for flight LX39 onboard flight LX38?

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    $\begingroup$ Where does the video say the same crew explored the city and then piloted the turn flight three hours later? Regulations side, It would be completely impossible to go for a leisurely bike tour to Marin and get back to the airport with enough time to preflight the trip. Based on the video, they could have spent the next week in SF. We don't know. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ And an extra dose of shame for the folks riding their bikes on the sidewalk on Market St. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 22:58
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    $\begingroup$ How can they even think to stroll around like tourists with such a short layover is out of my mind - simple. They didn't. I nearly always find it best to assume that professionals act professionally. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Simon you should NOT upvote to revert someone else's downvote $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ @federico - equally you should not downvote for a statement you dislike, at least not without a comment. Improve the answer, or comment why you downvoted. Otherwise what's the point in downvoting for anything other than clear poor quality overall? $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 10:48

3 Answers 3


You presume that they flew back the very same day... but that is an incorrect presumption.

For long flights over about 8 hours, strict rest limits apply so they cannot fly again for 8-10 hours at a bare minimum. Typically, a crew from a long-haul flight will stay in a hotel in the destination city for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours, depending on the flight length, timezone changes, airline schedules, union contracts, and so on. Yes the hotels and travel bonuses costs the airline a pretty penny but that's the cost of doing business.

So at this very moment there will be 1 or maybe 2 LX crews, resting (or touristing...) in San Francisco, waiting to fly a return service.

For more information you can google or ask a new question on Fatigue Risk Management Systems.


USA, EU, as well as other countries, have set law to regulate daily duty hour. Both the actual flight time for pilots and time of gap between shift have been limited. In USA,the rule has been tightened after Colgan Air Flight 3407 incident .

Most of the airlines rent hotel nearby the airport of long-haul destination for the cabin crew and pilot. Usually the airlines will schedule the crew to service the return flight for next day. The crew often receive extra bonus (in terms of local currency) from the airlines.

Special immigration policy are set for air crew, many countries are allowed to air crew entry with via crew certificate and on duty, regardless the general immigration and visa policy. On the other hand, some countries have introduced Crew Visa System such as USA(C-1/D visa).

Sometimes the air crews, especially the pilot, are requested to travel to other destinations as passengers by another flight. It depends on the airlines' schedules. In such case the off-duty crews may also travel by freighters, like El Al Flight 1862 incident.


For long routes, quite often the crew of the outbound leg is not the same as the crew on the inbound leg.
For example the way KLM does it (or used to) to Curacao where there were 3 flights a week, they'd have the crew fly Amsterdam-Curacao, then have a few days off on the island before taking the next aircraft back, the crew of which would then have a few days off.

Depending on the destination city the route may be more or less desired by crews obviously, some places are much nicer to spend a few days on company time than others :)

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    $\begingroup$ Flights to the Maldives are the same for airlines that do a weekly flight - the airline puts the crew up in a resort for a week! As you can imagine everyone tries to get that route, it's seen as a perk. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 11:06

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