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Airline Pilot Salary – How Much Do Pilots Make?


If you’re considering a career as an airline pilot, you’re probably wondering how much pilots are paid. The answer is that it can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the type of airline you work for, your level of experience, and the location of your base. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at airline pilot salaries and discuss some of the factors that can impact how much pilots earn.

Overview of Pilot Pay Scales

There are a number of pay scales that pilots might be eligible for, depending on their level of experience, type of aircraft they fly, and other factors. For example, pilots at major airlines typically start out at a higher pay scale than those at regional airlines. In addition, pilots who fly larger aircraft tend to earn more than those who fly smaller planes.

One factor that can impact pilot pay is the type of contract they have with their employer. Some pilots are paid an hourly rate, while others are paid a yearly salary. Hourly rates can vary depending on the number of hours a pilot flies each month, while salary pilots are paid a set amount regardless of the number of hours they fly.

Factors That Affect Pilot Salaries

There are a number of factors that can impact how much pilots are paid. Here are a few of the most significant:

  • Level of education and training: Pilots must have a certain level of education and training in order to qualify for a job with an airline. This includes a bachelor’s degree in a related field, as well as a commercial pilot’s license and an instrument rating. The more education and training a pilot has, the more they may be able to earn.
  • Type of airline: As mentioned above, pilots at major airlines typically earn more than those at regional airlines. This is because major airlines tend to have larger planes, longer routes, and more passengers, which can result in higher pay for pilots.
  • Location of base: Pilots who are based in major cities or popular vacation destinations may be able to earn more due to the higher demand for flights to those locations.

Pay Difference Between Captains and First Officers

There are a number of reasons why the pay difference between captains and first officers can be significant. Here are a few factors that can contribute to the pay gap:

  • Experience: Captains typically have more experience and training than first officers, as they have generally been in the industry for longer and have progressed through the ranks. As a result, they may be able to command a higher salary.
  • Responsibility: Captains are responsible for the overall safety and operation of the flight, and as such, they may be paid more to reflect the increased level of responsibility.
  • Demand: There may be a higher demand for captains, as they are typically more experienced and have more training. This can lead to higher salaries as airlines compete to attract qualified candidates.

It’s worth noting that pay scales can vary widely depending on the airline and the specific circumstances of each individual pilot. Some airlines may have smaller pay gaps between captains and first officers, while others may have larger gaps. Additionally, pay scales can differ between union and non-union airlines, as well as between different countries.

Airline Pilot Salaries

Major Airline Captain Salaries

Note that airline pay changes regularly.

A commercial pilot salary will vary based on the aircraft they fly. Where available, we’ve included the plane associated with the listed pay.

AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 12
American Airlines737$256,000$264,150$279,000
Delta AirlinesA320$235,800$243,000$257,400
Frontier Airlines$177,300$200,700$235,800
Hawaiian AirlinesA321$227,700$234,900$247,500
JetBlue AirwaysA320$221,400$233,100$254,700
Southwest Airlines737$216,900$227,700$246,600
Spirit AirlinesA320$175,500$198,900$234,000
United Airlines737$234,000$241,200$254,700

Major Airline First Officer Salaries

Most major airlines are hiring first officers from a regional airline. As you can see, these pilot salaries start out quite low and in many cases, they start lower than the captain pay at the regional airlines. So pilots who make the jump are taking a small pay decrease.

In the past few months, many major airlines have started announcing bonuses for pilots who move from a regional carrier to a major so the pilot salaries listed under year 1 in the table below will likely increase significantly in the next couple of years for most major airlines.

AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 12
American Airlines737$81,000$152,100$171,000
Delta AirlinesA320$82,800$149,400$168,300
Frontier Airlines$67,500$125,100$156,600
Hawaiian AirlinesA321$72,900$144,900$171,900
JetBlue AirlinesA320$84,600$149,400$170,100
Southwest Airlines737$75,600$147,600$171,900
Spirit AirlinesA320$54,900$123,300$154,800
United Airlines737$81,900$154,800$173,700

Pilot salaries posted above do not include sign-on bonuses or other benefits.

Comparison of Pilot Salaries Across Different Countries

Pilot salaries can vary significantly depending on the country in which they work. In the United States, for example, the average airline pilot salary is around $121,000 per year. This is higher than in many other countries, such as India, where pilots may earn closer to $30,000 per year.

Comparison of Pilot Salaries with Other Professions

It’s interesting to compare pilot salaries to those of other professions in order to get a sense of the earning potential of pilots. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for doctors in the United States is around $220,380, while the median annual wage for lawyers is around $122,960. As you can see, pilot salaries are generally lower than those of doctors and lawyers, but they are still relatively high compared to many other professions.

Future Outlook for Pilot Salaries

There is currently a pilot shortage in many parts of the world, and this is expected to continue in the coming years. This means that there will likely be a higher demand for pilots, which could lead to higher salaries. In addition, as the cost of flight training continues to rise, airlines may be willing to pay more in order to attract qualified candidates.


In conclusion, airline pilot salaries can be an attractive earning potential for those interested in a career in aviation. While there are a number of factors that can impact how much pilots are paid, such as their level of experience, type of airline, and location of base, pilots at major airlines in the United States can expect to earn around $121,000 per year on average. It’s worth noting that pilot salaries can vary significantly depending on the country in which they work, and that the demand for pilots is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, which could lead to higher salaries. Overall, a career as an airline pilot can be a rewarding and lucrative choice for those with the right education, training, and dedication.

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