Updated: February 2022
Disclaimer: The pilot salary figures provided on this page are generalizations and for guidance only. There will always be exceptions above and below the numbers shown.
It should also be noted that over the past two years, thousands of pilots have taken a significant pay cut, or worse, lost their jobs due to the pandemic. While salaries for high-end pilots can be very lucrative, it can be an extremely volatile industry in terms of job security.
How much do airline pilots earn?
A commercial airline pilot’s salary can vary widely between airlines, region, and experience. In some of the “main” airlines or flag carriers like Emirates, Delta, United Airlines or Qantas, long-haul captains can receive a salary of up to $350,000 (USD) / £200,000 per year. Co-pilots (or co-pilots) on these major airlines can earn up to $170,000/£120,000 a year.
However, first junior officers starting out in their careers could only be paid $25,000 (£20,000) a year. Less experienced captains or those working in certain low cost or regional airlines can start with around £60,000 a year.
In general, the more experience the pilot has and the bigger the plane he flies, the higher the pilot’s salary will be. Long-haul pilots are generally paid more than short-haul pilots, and captains are paid more than co-pilots. Co-pilots are often referred to as co-pilots.
Salary can also be affected by the amount of variable compensation earned (based on the number of flights you fly and the allowances you receive), the amount of overtime accepted (which can be very lucrative) and the bonuses offered .
Typical Airline Pilot Salaries in the United States of America
In the United States, the big “major” airlines pay very good salaries to their pilots. Carriers like Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines pay their long-haul captains up to $350,000 a year when factoring in allowances and bonuses.
Regional pilots starting their careers will typically earn a salary of $20,000 to $40,000 per year. Pilots normally start flying with regional carriers before moving on to larger airlines where they fly bigger planes and earn more money. However, not all pilots achieve this.
Airline pilot salary in UK and Europe
In the UK and Europe, senior long-haul captains flying on airlines such as Lufthansa, Swiss Air, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia & KLM can expect to earn between £150,000 and £250,000 a year. This varies depending on length of service, training qualifications, as well as bonuses, allowances and flight compensation.
Co-pilots on short-haul low-cost airlines like Ryanair and easyJet can expect to earn between £40,000 and £80,000 a year (although cadet pilots can start with less) while a short captain’s salary -mail can be between £90,000 and £150,000 per year. .
Some regional co-pilots or smaller budget airlines can start with as little as £20,000 a year for the first few years of their careers, with captains potentially earning between £40,000 and £80,000.
Commercial pilot pay in Asia
In Asian countries, such as China, airline pilots were in high demand before the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, some companies were offering pilots a salary of up to $500,000 a year for experienced ocean-going captains. First officer compensation can also extend up to $100,000 per year. Whether those huge salaries will continue to be offered as global travel demand begins to recover remains to be seen.
The average salary for a commercial pilot in India is around ₹4,687,90 with captains earning up to ₹6,610,000 per year.
Salary distribution of commercial pilots…
Commercial pilots typically receive a base salary which makes up the majority of their salary. They then typically receive allowances for overnight stays to cover their expenses and earn flight compensation for each flight they operate.
Some airlines also pay the pilot for each hour spent away from their home base. For example, if you are flying from Frankfurt to Las Vegas, you will be paid for each hour from your arrival in Frankfurt to begin your service until your return to Frankfurt after the return flight. It can be quite lucrative if it is an extended long-haul trip that lasts 7 days. Many airlines also pay bonuses to their pilots if the business is profitable.
Professional pilot pension…
Airline pilot pensions tend to be quite generous, with airlines often paying an additional 15-25% of your salary towards your pension. Airlines used to offer retirement salary pensions, but this is now less common due to the high cost to the company.
Top Level Captain Pay – it doesn’t come fast!
While the salary of long-haul captains in major and traditional airlines is a significant sum, it can take many years to be promoted to such a position. Regional, low-cost and short-haul flights typically steadily lose pilots to major and traditional airlines due to the lure of bigger paychecks and bigger planes. Once at a major carrier, pilots don’t tend to leave until they retire.
With little corporate expansion, captain positions only become available when another pilot retires. These are known in the industry as “dead man’s shoes”. Promotion is based on seniority, so it doesn’t matter if you’re the airline’s top pilot; you will only be promoted from co-pilot to pilot (co-pilot to captain) when there is a void to be filled and that can take up to ten to twenty years.
Since most pilots will have had to spend a few years with smaller regional carriers before joining a larger company, they might not hit the top pay scales until their 50s.
If you enjoyed reading this article, check out our page that describes a typical day for a long-haul pilot.