Why Do Pilots’ Salaries Vary Widely?

What are the factors that affect a pilot’s salary?
A pilot giving a thumbs up with a question mark made of money behind him.

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What are the factors that affect a pilot’s salary?

Suppose you desire to study aviation to have a career path as a pilot. In that case, you might be interested in getting more information about the high salary you will get as a pilot. Probably, you are wondering how much money you will make. Well, if you asked a group of pilots about their salaries, you would find a great difference in their salary. 

So, why is it?

To answer this question, you have to understand the different factors that affect a Pilot’s salary, like whether you work for a major or a regional airline, you are a first officer or a captain, your experience level, the time you spent at a company, and finally, the aviation industry’s general circumstances, which are continually growing and developing.

Taking all these factors into consideration, you will find that working as a pilot will make you have the potential to earn top salaries in today’s job market reaching up to a monthly 25000 USD.

Regional vs. major airlines

There are two major types of airlines: regional airlines and major airlines. a pilot’s salary can vary widely according to these two categories since each company pays different salaries. Since pilots are paid according to their working hours, your salary will depend on how many hours you work monthly. However, the average monthly salary for airlines is $9000, and it can even reach 25000 USD per month.

Due to the great competition in the aviation industry nowadays, regional airlines are forced to make themselves more appealing for pilots than major airlines by offering extra benefits for pilots such as paid training, travel expenses, bonuses, and good opportunities to be hired in the major airlines of their business partners.

At the beginning of your aviation career, you will usually work for a regional airline flying smaller aircraft to gain the experience required for major airlines. After that, you can work in a major airline in which your salary will be highly increased.

First Officer vs. Captain

There are usually two pilots on most of the commercial planes: a captain and a first officer or a co-pilot . The captain is mainly in charge of the plane operation and any decisions made during the flight, while the first officer assists the captain and acts as a backup in case of an emergency.

As a pilot, you will start your career as a first officer, and then after some years of experience, you will get a promotion to a captain and get paid triple the salary. 

The time you spend at a given company

A pilot’s salary at an airline is usually determined by the level of seniority and the time you spent at the company since they hired you. Each airline has its own payment system and schedule, but nearly all of them offer standard annual raises.

The aviation industry

The aviation industry status in general and air travel can change due to the changes in the global economy, tourism, and other industries. However, since 2018 the aviation industry seems to be very actively growing and developing; airlines are witnessing a remarkably growing period, and the demand of hiring pilots is reaching a peak.

Accordingly, pilot’s salaries are increasing along with the growing economy, and it’s expected to continue shooting up in the future. Usually, you witness the most massive jump in your salary after the first year. Within a few years at the same company, you can expect a significantly higher salary than your first or second year.

Years of Experience

When you have great experience in your career as a pilot, it will positively affect your expected salary. After only a few years, you can expect that your salary can exceed your double salary in your first year. By gaining more experience, your salary will be increased until it reaches five times. 

So, ambitious pilots in this career can earn impressive salaries which are expected to be financially stable within a few years of work.

Monthly minimum hours

One of the most significant advantages of working as a pilot, which distinguishes it from other professions, is that you will not get a fixed salary. Instead, you are paid for the number of hours you fly, in addition to per diem (daily allowance for food, accommodation, and other expenses during trips). Still, since the monthly flying hours can vary according to the schedule, most airlines guarantee a minimum number of flying hours per month so that you can expect a minimum amount of monthly income.