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Captain Martin Crieff (Benedict Cumberbatch)
- Animals Hate Him: In Uskerty, he winds up being attacked by bees and pestered by a goose, which then proceeds to eat his father's signet ring.
- Buffy Speak: While he tries to be professional, Martin lacks Douglas's impressive vocabulary, and occasionally lapses into this.Martin: But the thing is, weíve taken away all the things that couldn't possibly have happened, so I suppose the only thing thatís left, even though it seems really weird, must be the thing that did happen, in fact.
- Butt Monkey
- Cannot Talk to Women: Gets tongue-tied when dealing with attractive women, e.g. Hester MacCauley ("Cremona"), Linda Fairburn ("Newcastle") and Princess Theresa ("Vaduz").
- Determinator: He qualified to be a pilot on his seventh attempt. Every time he failed he had to save up the money again in order to retry.
- Emotional Regression: suffers this when his brother and sister are around.
- Expecting Someone Taller: Is constantly on the receiving end of this when people fail to acknowledge him as the Captain.
- Geek Physiques: Implied to be small and spindly. Has trouble getting people to recognise him as an authority figure. This can be a bit jarring when it comes to the promotional pictures, since Benedict Cumberbatch is actually six feet tall.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Towards Douglas, who looks the part of an airline captain in addition to having the skills. Also towards the actor Martin in "Rotterdam."
- Grew a Spine: Series 4 shows him being somewhat more assertive and confident.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex
- Lawful Stupid: When it comes to safety, to the point where he even refuses to allow an imaginary otter into the flight deck.
- Maybe Ever After: May or may not end up with Princess Theresa since the two have gone on some dates together and like each other, hopefully giving Martin a Earn Your Happy Ending.
- Not So Above It All: Despite being a stickler for safety and professionalism, Martin is occasionally seen indulging his sense of humour during his cabin addresses on cargo flights, and goes out of his way to throw an improvised Christmas party for Arthur in the flight deck.
- Perpetual Poverty
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The Sensitive Guy to Douglas's Manly Man.
- Sickly Neurotic Geek: Has an "abnormality of the inner ear" that makes him reluctant to go swimming without earplugs in "Ipswitch", worries that being able to smell bacon might be a sign of impending doom in "Xinzhou", and plays up his injury to get out of hard work in "Ottery St. Mary".
- Small Name, Big Ego: Makes a big deal of the fact that he's an airline captain.
- The Unfavourite: Always in the shadow of his elder brother Simon, and often bickers with his sister Caitlin, a traffic warden. However at the end of "Wokingham", his mother informs him that the whole family have always been proud of him, especially Simon.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Martin's late father tried to steer him away from becoming a pilot after he repeatedly failed his exams. Martin deeply regrets that his father never got to see him fulfill his dream.
First Officer Douglas Richardson (Roger Allam)
- Ace Pilot
- Berserk Button: The fact that Martin caught him pretending to be the airline's captain to impress his wife.
- Brilliant, but Lazy
- Broken Ace: Downplayed because it's a comedy, but Douglas is a former alcoholic who has had a total of three unsuccessful marriages and his most recent wife cheated on him with a Tai Chi instructor.
- Born Lucky
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Carolyn is fully aware of his love of Zany Schemes, disregard for rules, and tendency to steal expensive whiskey, but he remains employed because of his skill as a pilot, as well as his general talent for getting MJN out of virtually any kind of trouble.
- Cloudcuckoolander: It's camouflaged by his impressive vocabulary, intellect, and snark, but Douglas certainly has a bizarre sense of humour and a rather wacky imagination- his story about St Mary being eaten by otters is a good example, as are most of his cabin addresses and word games.
- Cozy Voice for Catastrophes: As evidenced by episode one, scene one.Just to let you know weíre making our final approach now into what I am fairly sure is Fitton Airfield. Unless itís a farm. Or just possibly the A45. Itís not the sea, because thatís blue...
- Deadpan Snarker
- Establishing Character Moment: His highly sarcastic cabin address in the cold opening to "Abu Dhabi", given in spite of the fact he knows that there are no passengers on the plane.
- Expospeak Gag
- Green-Eyed Monster: Towards Hercules.
- Guile Hero
- Insufferable Genius
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Large and in Charge: Subverted. Most people assume he's the captain because of his age and height.
- Karma Houdini
- MacGyvering: Many of his Zany Schemes involve a form of this, most notably his solution in St. Petersburg.
- Manipulative Bastard: Particularly towards Martin.
- Self-Proclaimed Liar:I cannot tell a lie. What am I saying? I'm terrific at telling lies.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The Manly to Martin's Sensitive.
- Tall, Dark and Snarky: Possibly, depending on how canon the cast picture is. Roger Allam has dark hair, so most fans tend to assume that this applies to Douglas as well. Douglas's height, however, and his snark especially, fit this trope to a tee.
- The Teetotaler: Revealed at the end of "Fitton."
- The Ace
- The Casanova: in his younger days.
- Ultimate Job Security: An awful lot of his behaviour — including low-flying GERTI over some polar bears having accidentally left the cabin address on so everyone on board can hear Martin screaming at him to stop and stealing from the CEO at least once a year — should at least get him suspended or disciplined. Justified by the fact that there isn't an alternative given MJN is an Oddly Small Organisation, and he is very good at getting them out of tight spots at very short notice.
- Weasel Co-Worker: Zigzagged. Douglas is certainly sneaky and a slacker, and often winds up getting Martin in more trouble than himself, but he is highly competent as a pilot, and is often the one who winds up bailing MJN out when trouble strikes.
Carolyn Knapp-Shappey (Stephanie Cole)
- Berserk Button: Hates being called or treated as "an old lady."
- Deadpan Snarker: Almost as much so as Douglas. The two often engage in Snark-to-Snark Combat.
- Mean Boss: Certainly in the earlier seasons, although Series 4 has her being much nicer towards Martin.
- Never Mess with Granny: And while you're at it, you probably shouldn't call her "granny."
- Tsundere: Behaves this way towards Herc.
Arthur Shappey (John Finnemore)
- Bad Liar: In "Kuala Lumpur".
- Berserk Button: Do NOT upset his mother.
- The Ditz
- Cloudcuckoolander: Yes.
- Man Child
- Self-Induced Allergic Reaction: By eating dragonfruit in "Yverdon-Les-Bains."
- Static Character: The only character of the main four not to undergo significant character development over the course of the show.
- The Pollyanna
- The Watson: He's usually the one to ask the pilots questions related to aviation and aeroplanes, which helps clarify the piece-that's-fallen-off-GERTI-of-the-week for the benefit of the audience. He becomes a much more literal Watson to Martin's "Sherlock" in the episode "Paris."
Mr Birling (Geoffrey Whitehead)
Hercules "Herc" Shipwright (Anthony Head)
- Always Someone Better: To Douglas.
- Awesome McCool Name
- Granola Guy: a strict vegetarian, apparently on moral grounds. Carolyn thinks it's because he's afraid that the sheep will come after him for revenge.
- Why Did It Have To Be Sheep?
Princess Theresa of Liechtenstein (Matilda Ziegler)
- Modest Royalty: Presumably, since the crew don't recognise her as a princess when they first meet her.