How to Finance & Fund Commercial Pilot Flight Training

How do I pay for my commercial flight training?

There are several ways to pay for your commercial flight training. To fund or finance your airline pilot training, you usually have the following options:

  • Be accepted for a large, property-secured bank loan to pay for your integrated flight training.
  • Be accepted for an airline-specific cadet program where the airline is sponsoring your training or will act as a guarantor of a loan to fund the training.
  • Complete flight training through the modular route to allow you to continue working and paying for your flight training as you can afford it.
  • Save for several years while working full time before self-funding an integrated flight training course.
  • Become a pilot with the military paying for your flight training, then convert your licenses to a civilian commercial license when you complete your minimum service requirements.

Affordability

Unfortunately for many people, funding for flight training is the biggest hurdle to becoming a commercial airline pilot. With the cost of integrated flight training for airline-specific cadet programs now exceeding £120,000 / €140,000, securing the funds to fund the training can be both very difficult and daunting.

Bank loan

With integrated flight training programs starting at around £80,000, there are only a handful of realistic options you can use to finance training and one of them is a bank loan. Because of the amount of money you will need to borrow, banks will require a ‘guarantor’. This means that the loan is secured by an asset and the asset is usually property.

The majority of future commercial pilots want to start their flight training soon after leaving school and it’s clear you’re unlikely to own property at his age. Therefore, people usually depend on their parents or other family members (such as grandparents) to secure the loan on their property for you or remortgage the home.

Unfortunately, this is not an option for everyone, as not all families own their home or have paid down enough principal in the mortgage.

Some banks offer specific flight training loans that provide payment holidays until you complete the training. Others, you have to start repaying the loan immediately, but clearly you won’t earn any money while you’re taking a full-time integrated commercial flight training course.

The risk of a bank loan

This option is not without risk. If you don’t get a job as a pilot as soon as you complete your flight training, can loan repayments still be made? Thousands of people have had their airlines rescind their tentative job offer midway through their training or have even been fired from their airlines while still trying to repay the loan. You need to think about your contingency plans if the worst happens to protect the property you may have secured the loan on.

Although you hope never to need it, this is where having additional qualifications or previous work experience to draw on can be invaluable.

Cadet Programs / Sponsorship

Since the tragic events of 11and September 2001 in New York, very few airlines in the world continued to offer flight training sponsorship. Just before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were signs that this was starting to change. For example, in 2019, Aer Lingus opened its Future pilot program where the selected cadets were fully funded.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet were prepared to act as loan guarantors for cadets who were successfully accepted into their pilot programs. Some airlines such as Emirates were prepared to pay for their cadets’ flight training in full, although this only applied 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 possibly even longer to repay the loans they needed and build a healthy balance sheet. With many thousands of pilots currently out of work, fully loan-sponsored or loan-backed programs seem unlikely to return anytime soon.

Comprehensive Modular Flight Training

The beauty of modular flight training is that you can complete each part of the training as you wish. Basically, you dictate the schedule. It’s also a much cheaper way to get your commercial pilot license. This allows you to continue working during the ride and your flight training alongside, for a cheaper price, when you can afford it.

You can take modular flight training for between £/€35,000 and £/€50,000. While that may seem like a lot, it’s still significantly less expensive than built-in 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 it comes to modular flight training, you can also use smaller unsecured loans to speed up training, especially the later parts if needed.

After reading this, you might be wondering why anyone takes integrated flight training; There are obvious pros and cons to both.

Save

If you’re serious about an integrated flight training program and can’t use a loan to fund it entirely, starting another career and saving over a long period of time can work. It sounds 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 years and potentially having joined an airline at the age of thirty. It will take a lot of perseverance and motivation, but airline recruiters are very impressed with people who have shown such determination to pursue their dream job.

military road

If you join the military as a pilot, they’ll pay for all your flight training, and you can convert your flight experience to a commercial pilot’s license when you leave. However, we don’t recommend applying to the military just because you want to be a professional pilot – you really need a genuine motivation to become a military pilot with a full appreciation for the role and lifestyle. In the end, you could be sent to war or stationed all over the world.

Manually flying fast jets or heavy transport planes at low altitudes is some of the “real flying” you won’t experience on a commercial airline. Doing this for a number of years (being aware of minimum service requirements) before moving into the commercial world is the ideal route for some people.