Becoming a pilot is an extremely difficult career path that requires an immense amount of focus, studying, and fieldwork. Once they’ve passed all the necessary training and technical studies, they are then permitted to apply for a position with any airline around the world. But, the most important thing that's on every pilot's mind is how much money they are going to make. Of course, it’s understandable that every pilot wants to make the most amount of money, but unfortunately, each airline offers different starting salaries. Most importantly, a pilot's location where he or she is applying for a job will also determine what their annual salary will be.


Once they've finally received their desired salary and agreed to the terms to their contract, they are then bombarded with the overwhelmingly satisfying perks, bonuses, and benefits. Pilots receive additional money per hour for each flying hour, as well as whether they're flying a short commercial flight or a large chartered flight. Additionally, pilots will also receive additional compensation based on layover and experience. Because of all these factors, starting salaries can range anywhere from $85,000 to $130,000 annually which is equivalent to roughly $70 per hour to $222 per hour if you’re a captain. Pilots also receive allowances for living expenses and meals, insurance, 401K, and other benefits like flying around the world for free.

Location Will Determine Your Salary At American Airlines

There are some airlines, like American Airlines, that have a way of negotiating a salary with a pilot based on his or her location. The average starting salary for a pilot is roughly $83,000 and can even go as high as $200,000 based on experience and qualifications. However, the location of the job posting will also add a couple thousand to a pilot’s paycheck.

Recently, American Airlines posted an opening in Atlanta, Georgia with a starting annual salary of $129,446 whereas Las Vegas, Nevada’s job posting only offered $99,961 annually. Granted, both of these salaries are impressive, this also does not include the additional compensation pilots receive such as additional money per hour flown, overtime, longer flights, etc.

Related: Things Pilots Reveal About Their Job (5 Things They Don't Like About It)

Southwest Airlines Created A “Pathway Project” To Increase Promotions

In order to fill hundreds of pilot vacancies, Southwest Airlines created partnerships with various aircraft industries that would be able to provide Southwest with 400 pilots each year. The Destination 225 program was created in order to speed up a pilot’s training, meaning they would be able to receive their initial training while working as flight instructors or chartered pilots in order for them to accumulate their hours they need to be able to apply as a Southwest Airlines First Officer.

According to the United States Aviation regulations, a pilot must accumulate 1500 hours of flight time in order to apply for the First Officer positions. However, Southwest Airlines has made it clear to its pilots that accumulating hours is not their main focus, whereas quality of training is essential.

Since this program commenced, Southwest has not reported a shortage of pilot recruits. Unfortunately, there are countless upcoming retirements in the next three to five years that pose a threat to Southwest Airlines amongst others. 

Related: 10 Things Pilots Do In The Cockpit (But Aren't Actually Supposed To)

European Airlines Evaluate Pilots Based On Overall Evaluations

Patrick Smith, a pilot in the United States, made his opinions very clear when he said experience and skill are, effectively, completely meaningless when it comes to how pilots receive promotions and pay raises. However, unfortunately, the United States and Europe evaluate differently.

In Europe, pilots bid for their preferred positions, whether it be a first officer or captain, which aircraft they’d prefer, the city they’d rather be based out of, the ideal schedule, and more. However, the chosen candidate comes down to what position the airline is currently hiring for, which is preliminary for a specific aircraft. Their physical health, as well as their mental health, also play major roles in a pilot’s evaluation.

Related: These Are The Airlines With The Happiest Pilots

Seniority Is Essential In The United States

Seniority is everything, especially for a pilot’s position. Seniority can be transferred throughout the company, where a pilot would like to transfer from flying smaller aircraft to larger, wide-bodied airplanes that ultimately offer a higher pay rate. Additionally, larger aircraft also comes with an easier schedule. Seniority can also determine how fast a pilot becomes a captain, especially with a pilot who’s served for a long time can quickly become a captain for a smaller aircraft.

Additionally, seniority will play a role as to when a pilot can take a vacation. A pilot with more seniority can ask for Christmas and the Fourth of July off, whereas a newcomer will most likely be working holidays, weekends, and overnight flights.

Interestingly, seniority is not transferred when switching airlines. Therefore, if you enter with over thirty years of experience and transfer airlines, you will find yourself back at zero. However, it can take up to 15 years to make the maximum pay rate for your designated position.

Next: 15 Little-Known Facts About The Lives Of Pilots