Updated on  April 24, 2024

Many factors come into play

As with other professions, many pilots move up the career ladder, so they usually start small and gradually reach large amounts of money. But what are the determining factors?

The key to a pilot’s earning potential lies in their flight experience and seniority. These, along with the country of operation, the airline they work for, their flying hours, and the type of aircraft they operate, are the determining factors.

For example, someone who has stayed with the company for ten years will be paid better than a new joiner. Another example—Boeing 747 aircraft pilots are usually paid far more than Boeing 737/Airbus A320 pilots since larger jets often mean better salaries.

First Officer and a Captain

Where in the world do airline pilots earn the most?

There’s a significant disparity in pilot earnings across the globe.

Compared to the USA or Asia, Europe is rarely seen as the place where pilots earn the most. However, European airlines often surpass British airline companies in terms of salaries, bonus systems, and overall conditions.

Africa, for instance, typically needs to catch up, while the Middle East presents various outcomes depending on the location and/or the airline.

European and American airlines

How much do European airline pilots earn?

In 2024, First Officers in Europe currently earn between €51k and €97k, according to Payscale, with a median salary of €74k. Last year, the same source indicated the range of €25k to €91k, translating into a median salary of €58k. This represents a 27.58% increase in the median salary over the past year.

For Chief pilots, the range is €120k to €270k (compared to €61k to €200k in 2023). The current median is €195k, compared to €130.5k last year, reflecting an increase of 49.46%.

Carriers like Lufthansa Group, British Airways, Air France-KLM, Ryanair, and easyJet, among others, are renowned for being among the highest-paying airlines.

Airline pilot salary in Europe in 2024

What are commercial pilots’ salaries in the USA?

In 2024, the yearly salary range for a First Officer position in the USA is $56k-$185k (median salary $120.5k). Comparing this year’s median salary to last year’s, similarly to what we did for Europe, we see an increase from $79k to $120.5k, amounting to a 52.53% rise.

Captains in the USA today can earn between $98k and $379k (median salary $238.5k). Compared to the median salary of $163.5k in 2023, this year’s figure represents a growth of 45.87%.

However, an interesting point is that, despite top pilot salaries everywhere else in the world not reaching those found in the USA, approximately half of captain vacancies remain unfilled due to insufficient interest from first officers. Thousands of pilots have refused captain upgrades at American Airlines in recent years.

Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and others are topping the list of the best-paying carriers in the country. Most regional airlines are paying lower salaries.

Airline pilot salary in USA

How much do commercial airline pilots make in Asia?

In 2024, a First Officer in Asia can expect to make $40k-$120k (compared to $27,000-$87k in 2023), while Captains typically make around $50k-$217k (approximately the same figures were reported in 2023).

However, please keep in mind that salary ranges differ significantly from country to country in the Asian region. For example, the maximum pay for Captains in Hong Kong is $239,375, whereas in India, it is only $89,969. In Saudi Arabia, it falls somewhat between these two estimates at $125k. 

Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Singapore Airlines are among the commercial airlines that offer the highest pilot salaries.

Airline pilot salary in Asia

Who earns better: a cargo airline pilot or a passenger plane pilot?

It is often true that many pilots flying passenger aircraft are paid better than their counterparts at cargo airlines (although this can vary). The main reason is that airline and cargo airline pilots have slightly different roles and responsibilities. However, cargo pilots often enjoy more flexible schedules than regular airline pilots.

Cargo airline operations

When do I earn back what I invested in becoming a commercial airline pilot?

Although it is a tricky question since it depends on many factors, we have made an approximate calculation to give you an idea.


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The graph below was created based on pilot salaries at a European airline and the total amount of money one typically needs for pilot training.

pilot training cost and return on investment

As you can see, for the first three years, you will be patiently working to ‘pay off your debt’ or, in other words, to recoup your initial investment (which averages around €90k for initial training and Type Rating, though rates may vary among different flight schools). However, after that period, you will experience profit growth each year. By the sixth year, it will already reach €92k. Please remember that it refers only to profit, not the commercial pilot salary itself. The salary is likely to be close to €200k, putting you within arm’s reach of a promotion to Captain.

What extras do commercial pilots get on top of pilot pay?

The extras on top of airline pilot salaries vary between airlines. However, common benefits international airline pilots receive include health, life, vision, and dental insurance, as well as a retirement plan. Additionally, they often receive travel benefits on the airline’s flights for themselves and their relatives.

Recently, BAA Training has conducted a job ad analysis, clarifying the types of benefits most commonly offered. For example, 40% of analyzed job ads cover accommodation costs, 36.7% mention visa and duty travel expenses, 23.3% include loss of license insurance, and another 23.3% provide payment for travel insurance. Additionally, 16.7% offer block hour payments, and 13.3% have commuting contracts. Some airlines even offer monthly inflation coverage! 

Are pilot salaries increasing according to labor statistics?

Pilot salaries are indeed increasing, as observed at the beginning of this article, and one of the factors driving these pay raises is the ongoing pilot shortage.

Boeing projects global demand for 602,000 new pilots by 2041, with Europe facing a shortfall of 122,000 new pilots. The main reasons for this are the increasing demand for air travel, the retirement of older pilots, and the fleet expansion of airlines.

Regarding the carriers ramping up their operations, think of the Dubai Airshow held in November 2023. Boeing placed 295 orders, while Airbus secured 86, making it the most bustling Dubai Airshow since 2017. Furthermore, Boeing placed another order for 150 Boeing 737 MAXs at the Wings India event.

Airline pilot doing the job


In summary, obtaining a pilot license and pursuing a career in aviation can provide the lifestyle and financial stability you desire, particularly as you gain experience. A comparison of pilot salaries between last spring and this spring, using Payscale as a source, reveals significant increases across all regions—Europe, the USA, and Asia—with the USA leading the trend. This proves the investment is worthwhile, especially considering you can recoup your money in 3-4 years. If you’re curious about how to become a commercial pilot, get in touch with us, and let’s take it from there!