Current Professional Pilot Pay - Best Places to Fly and Highest Paid Positions


As with many professions, compensation for professional pilots varies significantly depending on experience and credentials, specific job requirements, location, equipment qualifications, and more. As a result, regional airline copilots with fewer than five years of experience earn notably less than captains piloting international flights with over twenty years of service.

According to a February 2018 Money article, the median salary for commercial pilots was $140,340. A median calculation indicates that half of all pilots make more while the other half will earn less.

Many would be surprised to learn that professional pilots are often paid by the hour since they must operate within a federal legal limit of no more than 1000 hours of flying time per year. This regulation is intended to keep pilots fresh and prevent fatigue. Compensation per hour ranges from $80 to over $300.

What Do Airlines Pay?

The current average salary for airline pilots all levels is $113,709, according to Glassdoor.

In a recent Glassdoor survey, average airline pilot salaries spanned a broad range, as indicated below:

  • American Airlines $158,887
  • Delta Airlines $165,000
  • United Airlines $179,185
  • Southwest Airlines $182,497
  • SkyWest Airlines $102,780
  • Republic Airways $58,332
  • Frontier Airlines $80,587

Average salaries for pilots with larger international airlines are higher than those of the smaller regional companies. Distances, airplane capacities, and experience levels required for specific routes operated by the global companies raise the average compensation notably.

Seniority plays a principal role in determining what a pilot makes and the types of aircraft they will fly. As a result, many successful pilots remain with the same company throughout their careers

Private pilots receive similar average compensation to some of the regional airlines. NetJets currently pays an average of $111,800.

Freight pilots for UPS and FEDEX earn wages comparable to those working for the major airlines. The average salary for a UPS pilot, who also operates larger aircraft, is $177,231. FedEx pilots earn an average of $178,312.

Compensation by Location

Average professional pilot compensation varies even by location. According to a analysis, the U.S. median pay for pilots, copilots, and flight engineers is $125,401.

Listed as percentages above the median, the highest paying markets are:

  • Atlanta +36%
  • Miami +34%
  • Los Angeles +29%
  • Seattle +21%
  • Houston + 12%

Pilots in other cities, like Denver and Dallas, currently receive less than the median pay.

Growing Shortage of Pilots

The biggest concern in the aviation industry is the looming shortage of professional pilots that is resulting from a growing global economy and increased demand in passenger air travel. According to a 2018 CNN report by a University of West Virginia Aerospace expert and former professional pilot, the U.S. industry has 30% fewer trained pilots today than in 1987. Conversely, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the demand for air travel will double by 2038.

Contributing to the shortage of qualified pilots is the upcoming attrition through the retirement of senior pilots over the age of fifty. And the military, once a primary source, is producing fewer pilots than in previous decades.

Another factor, according to many sources, is that aviation pay rates after the 1978 industry deregulation and the recession of 2008-2009 did not provide sufficient incentive. Prospective pilots elected to invest their education money for other careers.

This growing supply and demand imbalance will have a significant impact on salaries of current and future professional pilot pay rates. In the meantime, airlines are striving to retain their top pilots with bonuses and other retention incentives.

Contact Aviation JobNet

Aviation JobNet is a premier recruiter in the aviation industry. Partnering with the leading companies in the industry to recruit quality candidates for all positions, Aviation JobNet’s job board currently lists thousands of open positions throughout the country. Openings include jobs for fixed-wing and rotor-wing pilots, engineers, maintenance technicians, customer service, flight attendants, airport management, customer service, and more.

By visiting their Aviation JobNet Job Board, you can check your job preference, salary range, and location to view the currently available options.

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