United Airlines flight UA161 Passenger shocked as pilot takes a NAP in first class

plane captain shocked passengers when he stripped off his uniform and went for a sleep in first class an hour into a transatlantic flight.

The incident happened during a seven-hour journey from Newark, New Jersey, to Glasgow.

Concerned passengers feared the United Airlines pilot’s actions posed a safety risk.

A retired police inspector who now works as a security adviser took a photo of the captain after he laid out his uniform and nodded off in bed.

He said: “The captain went to the loo and changed into a T-shirt before going for a sleep in first class.

“When he woke up, he changed back into his uniform and radioed for access back to the cockpit.

“Police officers get a hard time when they are photographed sleeping in a patrol car.

“I don’t think the captain of a flight packed with hundreds of people should be in such a vulnerable position.

“He slept for an hour and a half, then the first officer went for a sleep. The flight was about seven hours.

“Surely if pilots are in need of a rest mid-flight, they should do it away from the passengers. I’ve travelled to the US many times and have never witnessed this.”

The incident happened on flight UA161, which left Liberty International Airport at 7.40pm on August 22 and arrived in Glasgow Airport at 7.30am the next day.

The flight was under the control of a three-man cockpit crew.

A cabin crew member for a major airline, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “This is not a procedure I recognise.

“It seems highly unusual for a captain to remove his uniform during a flight.

“It also seems strange that a pilot should have what’s known as a flat rest on a flight that is under 11 hours.

“Usually they would take a spare seat in business class but often pilots will have their rest within the cockpit.

“It’s understandable that some passengers would be concerned.”

Aviation expert David Learmount described it as “most unusual”. He said: “It appears as if the crew member is having an organised rest.

“Sometimes airlines operate with an augmented crew – that’s three pilots when two are needed. But they don’t usually do that on a flight from the US east coast to the UK.”

United Airlines said: “On transatlantic flights, pilots are required to take a rest break. This aircraft is operated by a cockpit crew of three and this pilot was on his rest period.”



20 thoughts on “United Airlines flight UA161 Passenger shocked as pilot takes a NAP in first class

  1. Wow, what has happened to “journalism”?

    This is normal operations for US governed airlines. A call to the FAA would confirm that.
    This type of aircraft is not equipped with a “crew rest” area and the FAA requires a lie-flat seat for crew rest.

  2. It is standard FAA regulations that a pilot and all flight crew take turns taking rest on any flight over 6 hours. If it feels weird that you can see him taking a rest in public then please take it up with the airlines for them to have a more private place for crew rest. Also there are 3 pilots on an international flight to assure that there are always 2 pilots at every time as they rotate. Please don’t pretend to know the rules or be shocked by airlines and their safety practices.

  3. UAL 161 in a scheduled transatlantic international flight on a Boeing 757-200. It requires 2 pilots at the controls. Faa regulations require an extra pilot be scheduled for flights exceeding 8 hours block to block. Departs at 1940EDT arriving at 0730 BST which is about a 5+50 flight. Generally Eastbound transatlantic flights have a prevailing tailwind. Therefore UAL 161 does not “require” an extra pilot. But the return UAL 162, which is most likely crewed by this set of pilots , has a flight time of about 11 hours, which exceeds the 8 hrs Therefore this paired set of flights will be crewed with 3 pilots. Generally cockpit procedures dictate that the time from top of climb to top of descent is divided by 3. 161 will require 1hr 43min rest per pilot. The return flight 162 will have each pilot resting about 3 hr 25 min. That is generally how most transatlantic crews work the crew rest situation.

  4. Well, where to begin……

    The blogger who travels “all over the world,” and has never seen this – I am guessing you are not very aware of your surroundings. Be more vigilant.

    The cabin crew member that “didn’t recognize (not recognise) this procedure,” obviously has not been working for a “major airline” very long.

    The quote about “crew members taking rest breaks in the cockpit” – no, that is not where the rest bunks are located. It is most often a first class seat that is set aside for the pilots.

    As to the police officer taking the photo of a working crew member on duty- and then publishing it – that is a violation of the law. How perfect – a police officer breaking the law! I hope they come after him.

    This is a completely normal procedure, it happens every day on flights with more than 2 pilots – one is always on a rest break. They take turns thruout the flight. There is no safety risk. This is a “safety procedure” to ensure your pilots are properly rested to get all the oblivious passengers to there destination – safely! And yes, sometimes a pilot may change into a TShirt, so as not to wrinkle his uniform shirt while sleeping. It’s to keep a more professional appearance. That way they won’t look like all the other passengers in their pajamas and flip flops straggling their way off the airplane.

  5. I hope you realize that your severely misinformed article is falsely accusing an innocent pilot of putting passengers and crew members in danger. If you had done any real research at all you would have found that on long haul flights, such as from EWR to GLA, there are three or more pilots, a CA, FO, and an FB. After take off the flight is broken into three different break period where each pilot has an opportunity to spend a few hours off duty in order to prevent any incident from occurring due to fatigue. On smaller wide body aircrafts a first class seat is reserved specifically for this purpose and during that time the pilot has the right to do just about whatever he pleases, that includes sleep. I truly hope he sues you and your website for slander. You should be ashamed.

  6. To the anonymous writer hiding behind this blog:

    I would strongly suggest you conduct some fact-checking before publishing some click-bait headlines to attract people to your poorly-designed, do-it-yourself website, that provides no value. If you had conducted some research before jumping to conclusions — as an “expert” traveller — and before seeking out “expert opinion” from someone who is no longer associated with a reputable aviation publication, perhaps you would have concluded that this story isn’t really a story after all.

    Let’s put it this way… in most countries, by law, if you work an 8-hour shift or duty period, don’t you normally get a break for lunch or a meal? Well, in this case, it’s absolutely NO different whatsoever. Except, on this particular aircraft, a single-aisle Boeing 757-200 used for international flights, there is no private area for a crewmember to take break.

    Contractually, and if you had researched the United Airlines pilot contracts (public info via union), you will see that Pilots are entitled and expected to take a break on overseas transpacific/transatlantic flights over a minimum amount of time. This is to ensure they are fresh and awake and alert — to safely transport “experts” like yourself. Same goes for the cabin crew/flight attendants. This is why you had THREE crew from the flight deck on this flight and not just TWO. Some flights have FOUR crew members so more rotations can be performed and everyone stays refreshed and alert.

    On newer aircraft, there are hidden compartments on the aircraft where crewmembers — both flight deck and cabin crew — can take take their breaks, away from the passengers to ensure they receive an undisturbed period of rest. On this aircraft however, and on some other ones, crew members use regular passengers seats for their rest period. Based on the contract and position, sometimes the seat used for “crew rest” is in business class, sometimes it’s in economy class. Sometimes there are hanging curtains to block out noise and light, while other times there is nothing to separate the resting crew member from other passengers. And this, our dear “expert”, is exactly what was observed on this flight.

    At no time was the aircraft in danger, and at no time was safety compromised. The Pilot was simply taking their rest break, as guaranteed by their work contract – and in some cases, rest periods are governed by aviation regulations.

    And as for the Pilot changing into more comfortable clothing, wouldn’t you like to take a rest in something comfortable, to make the most of your rest period?

    On behalf of many member of the airline community – airlines who have “hidden” rest areas and airlines whose crew rest areas are basically out in the open — I would suggest you check your fact next time you want to write such a sensational story to scare readers and drive them to your inadequate travel site. For now, I’ll continue to source my news from more reputable sources — you’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but you’re off to a poor start already.

    A very annoyed member of the airline industry

  7. Its incredible to me that A) This travel blogger is stupid enough to actually post this and B) That the traveling public is this naive.

    All flights over eight hours require a third pilot, specifically so the Captain and First Officer can rest. There are also times that flights under 8 that would also have a relief pilot if contractually required.

  8. You travel internationally all the time and have never seen this? When you are on a 15 hour flight did you think the pilot drives to the airport, got the flight info and briefed for 1+45 then took off and traversed half the world for close to a 20hr duty day and never slept or took a break? Look at the very easy to find FAA regulations before you post an article highlighting yourself.

  9. This is so much a non issue it isn’t even funny!! And for ALL these so called “Aviation Experts” to weigh in on it is hilarious!!! Pilots get breaks AND believe it or not LUNCH Breaks!!
    JUST like every working stiff in marginally to fully developed countries!!
    It’s even documented in their contracts!! Oh and Flight Attendants ALSO surprise ! Surprise!
    Come ON people what’s YOUR work shift and how many lunches and breaks do YOU get!!
    Do You work 11 hours straight? Sixteen?
    Why do you think there was a vacant seat in FC to begin with? It’s in the Contractual language!!! Get a gripe for crying out loud EVERY airline does it!!

  10. This isn’t news. You obviously do not travel as much as you say you do, or you would have known this “incident” (incident?!?!?!) is normal.
    Irrresponsible journalism, instilling fake fear in to the public. You should be ashamed, and consider a different career.

  11. People should sweep at their own door. Always have to criticize something. Also United should have bunks where the crew should have a rest and customer do not see. Like European Airlines. I don’t understand why all american airliners don’t buy the module in the cargo area so no-one would need curtains or sleep where the passengers are sleeping.

  12. you just prove how many idiots on your site comment without knowing a thing.. it is quite usual for pilots on long haul flights to take a rest break. do you want a drowsy pilot Flying/ landing your plane? most international long haul flights have closed off sleep rooms for the pilots, a few don’t. this would be one. ALL long haul flights have 1,2 or even 3 “spare” pilots on board, so the cockpit is NEVER undermanned. they 1) captain, 2) first officer, 3)international officer (A,B). 1 rests while 2 fly. which brings up the cops statement ““Police officers get a hard time when they are photographed sleeping in a patrol car.” for one you are supposed to be patrolling, not sleeping. second ; you do not have a back up officer driving while you are sleeping..so basically sleeping on the job is inappropriate. and finally : taking pictures of Crew and/or persons without their permission is illegal.

  13. Is this article some sort of joke? Whoever wrote it must not fly often. The “expert” needs their credentials burned.

    If a flight is scheduled over 8 hours it requires more than 2 pilots. The majority of US flights headed to the UK and Europe are augmented like this. They take turns resting.

    This isn’t anything new.

  14. Thank you for providing excellent entertainment for aviation experts across the nation. This has gone viral among pilots, flight attendants, and airline professionals for being one of the most ignorant “blog” posts to date. Do your research and understand protocol before attempting to damage the reputation of a notable airline (this is coming from a seasoned pilot of a competitor).

  15. If you know anything about long flights they always get a rest time. This is a stupid and petty article. Maybe you should rethink your blog stories.

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