What happens when your pilots just don't get along? claims that there are "Do not pair" lists where someone can request not to work with another pilot.

For this reason, co-pilots, or first officers, have a way to quietly avoid flying with a captain they despise.

At the airline I work for, this subversive maneuver is known as “Do Not Pair.”

Here’s how Do Not Pair works:

When a first officer submits electronic bids for the next month’s flight schedule, he must enter the name of the undesirable captain into the computer bidding module.

As the bid is processed, the system makes certain the two pilot names are not paired on the same flight sequences.

Do such "Do not pair" systems exist?

  • 9
    If that article, written by a flight attendant and published by the LA Times, doesn't convince you, what would?
    – Brythan
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 2:13
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    I know there is the green on green rule but that is not the same thing. That's a new FO and a newly promoted captain who cannot fly together, whether or not they want to Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 6:18
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    all airlines? only american ones? only the ones mentioned in the article?
    – Federico
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 15:24
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    Is "Do airlines have" asking for every airline? No, some will not have these lists. But what's at stake here? Does it matter to you that some aviation companies try to match pilots who like working together?
    – BlueWizard
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 21:05
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    @BlueWizard It's not about pairing pilots who like each other, it's about not pairing pilots who dislike each other. That might not sound like much of a difference but it's an important distinction, because a bad atmosphere in the cockpit can and has affected safety of flights.
    – GordonM
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 10:23

1 Answer 1


Yes, "do not pair" lists do exist. They were brought in as one of the responses to the crash of Northwest Airlink Flight 5719. The accident was basically a CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) attributable to pilot error, but the attitude of the captain was cited as a major contributory factor. He harassed, brow-beat and bullied his junior first officer to such an extent that he became timid and ceased offering advice or opinion, in violation of accepted CRM rules that state that cockpit crews have to operate as a team.

After the crash it became acknowledged that personality clashes can have a very detrimental effect on CRM, so if there are certain flight crew who have trouble cooperating they can request to not be paired up. The airline is then obliged to try to accommodate those requests not to be paired up. The safe operation of an aircraft requires the crew to operate as a team.

If you don't trust Wikipedia, the National Geographic TV show Air Crash Investigation also covered this flight and its consequences.

The full NTSB report is available online, and cites a breakdown in communication leading to loss of situational awareness as a major factor in the crash (PDF)

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable causes of this accident were the captain's actions that led to a breakdown in crew coordination and the loss of altitude awareness by the flight crew during an unstabilized approach in night instrument meteorological conditions. Contributing to the accident were: The failure of the company management to adequately address the previously identified deficiencies in airmanship and crew resource management of the captain; the failure of the company to identify and correct a widespread, unapproved practice during instrument approach procedures; and the Federal Aviation Administration's inadequate surveillance and oversight of the air carrier.

It should be noted that the NTSB report does not explicitly recommend "do not pair" lists as a remedy against future occurrences, it mostly focuses on improving pilot training, and also on improved illumination on the wings to help pilots spot icing. The Air Crash Investigation episode does say that the report led to airlines adopting do not pair lists as a way of avoiding future incidents like this one.

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    It would be more convincing if that NTSB report suggested (or compelled) airline operators to introduce some sort of Do Not Pair list.
    – Jamiec
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 9:25
  • nice answer, I guess the problem with proving the list exists is that with any secret shadow ban style system you are not able to see if you are on it.
    – daniel
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 9:25
  • The Wikipedia article mentions the crash in question, and the causes of the crash, but I couldn't find it mentioning allowing people to not pair up. I have not read the NTSB report, though.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 9:31
  • @AndrewGrimm The mentioned TV show lists do not pair lists as one of the remedies introduced after the accident in its summing up.
    – GordonM
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 10:19
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    I have read the report, and if Do Not Pair lists were as a result of this accident, it wasnt a finding nor recommendation of the NTSB.I think you're summizing something which is not true - that bad CRM was responsible for the lists. Its hardly a solution to the problem and in fact could clearly make it worse (when do not pair pairs are inevitably paired due to extraneous circumstances)
    – Jamiec
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 13:36

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