Airline Pilot Salary
A look at an airline pilot’s typical yearly salary
What is the salary of a commercial airline pilot?
In general, commercial airline pilots are receive a very good salary. In the UK and US, Long Haul Captains may get a salary of up to $350,000 / £200,000 a year. First Officers (or the co-pilot) can earn a salary of up to $170,000 / £120,000 a year.
Junior First Officers who are just starting out in their career might only get paid $25,000 (£20,000).
The annual commercial pilot salary can vary quite significantly between countries, airlines and type of operation. In general, the more experience the pilot has and the bigger the aircraft they fly, the higher the pilots salary will be. Long Haul pilots are typically paid more than short haul pilots and Captains are paid more than First Officers. First Officers are often referred to as co-pilots.
United States of America Typical Airline Pilot Salaries
In the United States, the large ‘major’ airlines pay their pilots very good salaries. Carriers like Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines pay their long haul Captains up to $350,000 a year when you take into account allowances and bonuses.
Regional pilots just starting off their career will typically earn a salary of $20,000 – $40,000 a year. Pilots normally start out flying at regional carriers before moving across to major airlines where they fly bigger aircraft and earn more money. However, not all pilots go on to acheive this.
UK & Europe Airline Pilot Salaries
In the UK and Europe, commercial pilots can also expect to earn a good salary. Senior Long Haul Captains flying at airlines like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa & KLM can be expected to earn between £150,000 – £250,000 a year. This varies depending on length of service, training qualifications, as well as bonuses, allowances and flight pay.
First Officers at short haul low cost airlines like Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air can expect to earn up to £80,000 a year whilst a short haul Captain salary ranges up to around £150,000. Regional pilots might start on as little as £20,000 a year for the first few years of their career.
Asia Commercial Pilot Pay
In countries across Asia, such as China, airline pilots were in significant demand before the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, some companies were offering pilots a salary as high as $500,000 a year for experienced long haul Captains. First Officer pay can also extend upwards of $100,000 a year. Whether these huge salaries continue to be offered as world travel demand starts to recover is yet to be seen.
The average salary for a commercial pilot in India is around ₹4,687,90o, with Captains earning up to ₹6,610,000 a year.
Commercial Pilot Salary Breakdown…
Commercial pilots are typically paid a base salary which makes up the majority of their pay. They are then usually given allowances for overnight stays to cover expenses as well as earning flight pay for every flight they operate.
Some airlines also pay the pilot for every hour they are away from their home base. For example, if you fly from Frankfurt to Las Vegas, you will be paid for every hour from when you arrive at Frankfurt to start your duty, to when you return to Frankfurt after completing the return flight. This can be quite lucrative if it is an extended long-haul trip that goes on for 7 days. Many airlines also pay bonuses to their pilots if the company is profitable.
Commercial Pilot Salary Breakdown…
Airline pilot pensions tend to be quite generous with airlines often paying an extra 15-20% of your salary into your pension. Airines used to offer final salary pensions but this is now less common due to the high cost to the company.
Top Level Captain Pay – it doesn’t come quick!
Whilst the pay for Long Haul Captains at major & legacy airlines is a large sum, it can take many years to be promoted to such a position. Regional, low cost and short haul generally steadily lose pilots to the major & legacy airlines due to the lure of bigger pay checks and bigger aircraft. Once at a major carrier, pilots don’t tend to leave until they retire.
With little in the way of company expansion, Captain positions only become available when another pilot retires. This is referred to in the industry as ‘dead mans shoes’. Promotion is based on seniority so it doesn’t matter if you are the best pilot in the airline; you will only be promoted from co-pilot to pilot (First Officer to Captain) when there is a gap to fill and this can take as long as ten to twenty years.
Given that most pilots will have had to have completed a few years at smaller regional carriers before joining a major, they might not hit the top pay scales until well into their fifties.
If you enjoyed reading this article, check out our page which describes a typical day for a long haul pilot.