How Do I Pay for Flight Training?
A look at how to fund your commercial flight trianing
How do I pay for or finance commercial flight training?
To fund or finance you commercial flight training, you generally have the following options:
- Be accepted large bank loan, secured against a property to pay for integrated training
- Be accepted for an airline specific cadet program where the airline either sponsors your training or will act as a guarantor for a loan to fund the training
- Complete flight training through the modular route to allow you to continue working and pay for your flight training as you go / can afford it
- Save up for a number of years whilst in full time employment before self-funding an integrated flight training course
- Become a pilot with the military who pay for your flight training, then convert your licences to a civil commercial licence when you’ve finished your minimum service requirements
Unfortunately for a lot of people, financing the flight training is the biggest obstacle to becoming a commercial airline pilot. With the cost of integrated flight training for airline specific cadet programs now exceeding £100,000 / €100,000, securing the funds needed to finance the training can be both very challenging and daunting.
With integrated flight training programs starting at about £80,000, there are only a handful of realistic options you can use to fund the training and one of these is a bank loan. Due to the amount of money you will need to borrow, banks will require a ‘guarantor’. This means the loan is secured against an asset, and the asset is typically a property.
The majority of prospective commercial pilots want to start their flight training shortly after leaving school and clearly you are unlikely to own a property at his age. Therefore people are generally reliant on their parents or other family members (such as grandparents) securing the loan against their property for you or re-mortgaging the house.
Unfortunately this is not an option for everyone as not all families own their home or have paid off enough equity in the mortgage.
Some banks offer flight training specific loans which offer payment holidays until you’ve finished the training. Others, you need to start paying the loan back straight away but clearly you won’t be earning any money whilst you are completing a full time integrated commercial flight training course.
The Risk of a bank loan
This option does not come without risk. If you don’t end up getting a flying job as soon as you’ve completed your flight training, can the loan repayments still be made? Thousands of people have had their airlines cancel their provisional offer of a job half way through their training or have even been made redundant from their airline whilst still trying to pay off the loan. You need to think about what your contingency plans are if it worst happens to protect the property you may have secured the loan on.
Although you’d hope never to need it, this is where having some additional qualifications or previous work experience to fall back on can be a invaluable.
Cadet Programs / Sponsorship
Since the tragic events of 11th September 2001 in New York City, very few airlines around the world have continued to offer flight training sponsorship. Just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic there were signs this was starting to change. For example, in 2019 Aer Lingus opened their Future Pilot Program where the selected cadets were fully funded.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet were prepared to act as a guarantor for loans for cadets who were successfully accepted onto their pilot programs. Some airlines such as Emirates were prepared to pay for their cadets flight training in full although this was only applicable to UAE nationals.
Airlines have felt the full financial strain of the Covid-19 pandemic and it will likely take many years to recover and perhaps even longer to pay back the loans they needed and build up a healthy balance sheet. With many thousands of pilots currently unemployed, it would seem unlikely that any fully sponsored or loan guaranteed schemes are likely to return any time soon.
Complete Modular Flight Training
The beauty of modular flight training is that you can complete each bit of training as when you choose to. Basically you dictate the time table. It’s also a much cheaper way of getting your commercial pilots licence. Doing it this way allows you to keep working whilst completing your flight training on the side, for a cheaper price, and when you can afford it.
You can complete modular flight training for between £/€ 35,000 – £/€ 50,000. Whilst this might seem like a lot, it’s still significantly cheaper than integrated flight training and makes it more manageable. Clearly the timeline for how long it takes to complete the training will depend on how much you earn / can afford.
When completing modular flight training, you can also use smaller unsecured loans to help speed up the training, particularly the latter parts if needed.
After reading this, you might wonder why anyone completes integrated flight training; there are clear advantages and disadvantages for both.
If you’ve got your heart set on an integrated flight training program and can’t use a loan to fully fund it, starting on another career path and saving up over a long period can work. It seems daunting but if you start a different career at the age of eighteen and manage to save £/€10,000 a year you can start your commercial flight training at the age of twenty eight and potentially have joined an airline by the age of thirty. It will take a huge amount of perseverance and motivation but airline recruiters are very impressed with people who have shown such determination to pursue their dream job.
If you join the military as a pilot, they will pay for all your flight training and you can convert your flying experience into a commercial pilots licence when you leave. However, we would not recommend you apply to the military purely because you want to be a commercial pilot – you really need genuine motivation to become a military pilot with a full appreciation of the role and lifestyle. Ultimately you could be sent to war or be stationed all over the world.
Manually flying fast jets or heavy transport aircraft at low level is some of the ‘real flying’ you won’t experience with a commercial airline. Doing this for a number of years (be aware of the minimum service requirements) prior to transitioning to the commercial world is the ideal route for some people.
How much does it cost to become a commercial airline pilot?
The total cost of commercial flight training
How much does flight training cost?
As of 2021, it will cost you anywhere between £40,000 to £150,000 to train as a commercial airline pilot. The cost depends on which flight school you train at and the type of training you do (there’s more than one training route to becoming an airline pilot).
At present, the majority of airline’s currently require the student to pay the cost of training and this seems unlikely to change for the foreseeable future given the number of pilots out of work who are seeking reemployment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- A full time commercial flight training course (known as an integrated course) completed at a European flight school will cost upwards of £80,000 to around £130,000.
- Part time flight training, or a course completed at a various flight training organisations (known as modular training) will start at around £40,000 rising up to approxmately £60,000.
You also need to factor in that many aircraft require the newly hired employee to pay for his or her Type Rating. This is the qualification needed by a pilot to operate a specific aircraft type such as a Boeing 737. This can cost between £15,000 to £35,000 depending on who provides the training.
To see what options there are to help you fund your flight training, you can visit our ‘Financing Flight Training‘ page for more information.
Integrated Flight Training
Integrated flight training refers to a full time commercial flight training course, where all of the training is completed with the same dedicated flight training organisation. Students who complete integrated flight training can complete the course with fewer flight hours than that required if completing it through the modular route. A full time integrated course usually takes between about 14 – 18 months, however it is dependant on the weather and satisfactory student progress at each stage.
Integrated Training Advantages:
- It’s the quickest way to complete your flight training (14-18 months)
- High quality, intensive training
- Many airlines have traditionally preferred students from integrated training courses
- Many integrated flight schools have good relationships with airlines, and have a recommendation system
- Some airlines run mentored training programs which provide a fast track route into a job after completing your training
- Fewer flight hours are required to obtain your CPL/IR
Modular Flight Training
Modular flight training refers to completing your flight training one step at a time. You can do the training at your own pace, as your spare time and finances allow. It’s usually cheaper than integrated training and gives you maximum flexibility.
You would normally complete your modular flight training in the following order:
- Private Pilots Licence (PPL)
- Airline Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL) Theoretical Examinations
- Hour Building
- Commercial Pilots Licence
- Instrument Rating
- Multi Crew Cooperation Course
Modular Flight Training Advantages
- It’s the cheapest way to get your commercial pilots licence
- You can pay for it as you go, no large fees are required upfront
- You can complete it in your own time, alongside a full time job
For more information on the Pro’s and Con’s of each training route, visit our Integrated vs Modular page.
Who Offers Flight Training Sponsorship?
A look at which companies offer to pay for their cadet pilot training costs
Flight Training Sponsorship Options
From September the 11th 2001 to 2019, very few airlines offered to sponsor commercial pilot training. Following 9/11, the travel demand dropped significantly and many pilots found themselves unemployed. Just as the industry was starting to recover with airline recruitment becoming widespread, along came the 2008 financial crisis and the effects of this were felt for ten years with many airlines going bust.
This started to change in 2019. There started to be a shift in attitude regarding cadet sponsorship from some airlines, with companies such as Aer Lingus and easyJet offering to sponsor the majority of the cost of flight training for some lucky cadets. Unfortunately, this positive momentum has been destroyed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Due to the number of pilots who have found themselves out of work and the devastated finances of the airlines who survived, it is unlikely that flight training sponsorship will return any time soon.
There are still some organisations who offer grants or financial assistance, which we have listed below. If airlines start to reintroduce sponsored cadet programs, we will list them here.
The Honourable Company of Air Pilots (GAPAN) – January 2021
Formerly the Guild of Pilot and Navigators, the Honourable Company of Air Pilots offer a range of scholarships every year. This includes:
- Private Pilots Licence
- Theoretical Air Transport Pilots Licence Training
- Flight Instructor Ratings
- Jet Orientation Courses
- Gliding Scholarships
- Instrument Rating Bursaries
Airways Aviation – Part Flight Training Sponsorship – September 2019
Airways Aviation are now offering £15,000 towards the cost of the their integrated flight training program. Applicants must meet the same criteria as stated for their Integrated Training entry requirements whilst also being an UK or Irish Passport Holder. These include:
- Have a valid Class One Medical
- Hold 5 GCSE’s passes
- Be at least 18 years old
The fund welcomes applications from anywhere in the world and aims to support individuals whose careers are at standstill due to having no resources to move their careers forward. The foundation was formed by Mathetes Chihwai better known by his stage name Matthew C. Martino.
According to the MMBF’s website applicants will be allowed to apply for up to three different grants or sponsorships and although some grants are age restricted the Trustee’s will be open to reviewing applicants from other applicants who feel they qualify for sponsorship.
West Atlantic usually run a fully sponsored cadet program approximately once a year. If you have a PPL, they offer to cover the costs of all of your flight training to obtain a frozen Air Transport Licence before going on to fly one of their aircraft.
To apply for the program you are required to hold the following:
- Private Pilots Licence (which can be sponsored through GAPAN)
- A Class One Medical (see our “Medical Requirements” section for more information)
- The right to live and work in the UK (European citizen)