A couple of days ago, I flew with a popular budget airline within Europe. The aircraft was an A320. It was also a brand new one (only in service since June 2018 and produces 15% less noise and fuel emissions than previous models, or so they told us).
Anyway, onto the question. During the flight, I asked a member of CC if I could meet the pilots after landing, they asked for me and the pilots agreed. They seemed happy to have a chat, I asked them how much hand-flying they had done on the 3 hour flight we had just completed (after reading on here the average for this type is 3 - 7 minutes per flight). The captain sheepishly grinned and pointed at the FO...I turned around and he was laughing. The captain then told me that since the weather was so nice, the FO, who was still fairly new, asked if he could take control. Turns out he ended up hand-flying most of the cruise!
The captain then assured me that pilots don't use passenger flights to 'practice' their skills however, and that it was actually permitted and encouraged by this airline.
I thoroughly enjoyed the 'insider' knowledge of that flight and didn't mind one bit whether the pilots chose to use auto-pilot or not, but my question is - was this actually permitted? I have read, on this site, that the A320 has specific instructions in the manual that pilots must engage auto-pilot after 10,000 ft until approach.