ALPA Guidance

Caring for an ill family member can be extremely challenging with our work schedule as pilots. Further, providing care for a seriously ill family member can take an emotional toll on the caregiver. While every family situation is unique, there are several options you can use to care for an ill family member.

Leave and Time Off

Your contract may allow for you to bid in ways to maximize time off. Contact your employer’s contract enforcement department for assistance. 

Sick Leave

Sometimes caring for an ill family member can result in debilitating psychological stress. The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) recommends pilots use the IMSAFE checklist to assess your fitness to fly—illness, medication, stress, alcohol, fatigue, and emotion, each of which can affect a pilot’s safety and performance.

Many collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) provide guidance for the use of paid sick leave. Sick leave is normally only to be used for your own personal medical condition, physical or mental, that disables you from performing duties as a flight crewmember.

State Sick and State Paid Family Leave

For longer absences, you may be able to use state sick or state paid family leave (PFL).

State sick is the use of earned paid sick leave to care for an eligible family member. It is available to pilots based in states with laws requiring employers to allow employees to use earned accrued paid sick leave to care for eligible family members. Each state law is different. For more information, see State Sick Leave.

State PFL is a disability benefit provided by state law to care for a family member. The use of state PFL is governed by the laws of the respective state where you are based, not where you reside. For more information, visit State Paid Family Leave.

What Is FMLA?

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a U.S. federal law that allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for eligible family members with disabilities or serious health conditions. FMLA provides up to 26 weeks while caring for a qualified seriously injured or ill service member. There may be some restrictions and limitations; contact your employer’s pilot administrative department for more information.

For further information on FMLA, contact your ALPA MEC office or your employer’s administrative office or refer to FMLA.

ALPA Resources

Caring for an ill family member can be emotionally challenging and sometimes result in short-term psychological distress. The following resources are available when considering your own fitness to fly.

ALPA Pilot Peer Support

Pilot Peer Support (PPS) connects ALPA members with trained pilot peers to talk about any personal or professional problems you may be experiencing. PPS volunteers listen and offer confidential, nonjudgmental support. Speak with a PPS peer about any concerns that may threaten your medical certificate, career, and life. Peers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Contact PPS.

ALPA Aeromedical

ALPA Aeromedical—also known as the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service, or AMAS—provides free, confidential consultations with medical professionals to all ALPA members in good standing. Contact ALPA Aeromedical at 303-341-4435 Monday through Friday 0830 to 1600 MT or visit the AMAS website.

To learn more, read “Fit to Fly? How Can We Know?” Part 2.