The dynamic nature of a pilot’s work profile is not new. A skilled and well-trained professional in a dynamic work environment is why the aviation world today is in safe hands. Pilots are hence compensated for not just their flying abilities but for safety and the ability to deal with challenges that arise at 35,000 feet in the sky. One needs to realize that dealing with a problem alone is not enough, but it must be dealt with safely, effectively, and efficiently. A well-trained pilot working in sync with his crews will be able to do that.
The question now arises as to how pilots are compensated! They do not work 9-5, they work odd hours, they work weekends, they get extended days off, and many at times do not return home every night. Is it fair to pay them the same way as an office worker, or should their pay be a little more dynamic just like their work-life?
Some of the factors that affect the pay of pilots are –
1. Does a pilot fly for a regional airline, mainline airline, or a charter operator? – Regional airlines pay less, and pilots fly smaller aircraft. Flying for a regional airline is the most common way to gain the experience required for the major airlines, so it’s a necessary step for most up-and-coming pilots
2. Is the pilot a First Officer or a Captain?
3. What are the monthly minimum hours towards a basic salary guaranteed by the airline?
4. Time at the company- Pilots with longer tenures usually earn more per hour of flying as a reward for their commitment.
5. Type of airplane operated ( Eg B737, B777, A350)
Now that we know the factors that could affect a pilot’s salary, let us look at what the constituents are in it.
For the most part, Pilots have a basic salary that is given to them per month. This basic salary is for a certain number of hours of flying per month (Usually 70-90 hours of flying). This pay is usually set by the company, and so are the flying hours. Any flying done above these hours is entitled to “Premium Pay” or “Overtime Pay.” This pay will be determined as “a per hour flying pay” that is usually close to 1.5-2 times more than the basic hourly pay.
A pilot is entitled to what is known as- “Flight Hour Pay.” This is the pay per hour of actual flying that a pilot gets. In some parts of the world like North America, this is included in the basic salary, but in other parts of the world, it is separate.
Considering that it would be hard for Pilots to meal prep, carry their entire life in a suitcase for trips lasting a few days, pilots are entitled to “Per Diems” or “Layover Pay.” This is usually a tax-free allowance given, so when crews are on a trip, they can purchase food and essentials. One can look at this pay as an inconvenience for having to be away from home and having to repurchase food, groceries, and other essentials that are usually well-stocked in your home.
These are the basics of how a Pilot is compensated in cash per month for his services. However, some airlines offer benefits such as school education paid for, rental allowance, uniform allowance, medical allowance, ground transport allowance, etc. These may not be in direct cash, but if you add a monetary value to each of these, you will notice these are essentially the benefits that office workers get in addition to their salary.
Just to add a little complexity to this, some airlines in North America even distinguish between day and night time flying pay ( Night paid more), Oceanic pay ( pay for flying over water), trip regulations pay ( paid based on time away from your home ) and training pay ( if you chose to become a training pilot). This payment is usually found amongst unionized pilot groups where pilots have worked and negotiated to gain favorable wages and working conditions.
I hope this article gives you some basic understanding of how pilots are paid and what their salary looks like. Even though aviation, as such, is a volatile industry and a pandemic like Covid-19, economic downturns and other external factors do tend to cause havoc- pilot salaries have increased over the years, and the demand for qualified and well-trained pilots is increasing. So, hold your chin up, study well and be the best-trained pilot out there so that when the opportunity arises, the company you want to work for will look forward to welcoming you on board.
Until next time, and as always, “We Speak Aviation.”
The article is written by Pilotamireh Social Media Team Member Vignesh Sridhar