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 answer is a pilot’s flight experience, seniority, the country where they are based, the airline they fly for, flying hours, and the aircraft type they operate.


For example, someone who has stayed with the company for ten years is sure to be paid better than a new joiner. Another example is: Boeing 747 aircraft pilots are 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?


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 is usually far behind the rest of the world, while the situation in the Middle East depends on the exact location and/or the airline.



European and American airlines



How much do European airline pilots earn?


In Europe, a median salary of a First Officer is between €25,000 and €91,000, according to Payscale. For a Chief pilot, the range of an average salary is €61,000–€200,000 (and more). But again, it is only a rough estimation.


At Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air pilots can expect up to €80,000 a year as First Officers or up to €150,000 as short-haul Captains. However, a highly-experienced Captain doing long-haul flights at larger airlines such as Air France-KLM or Lufthansa might be paid between €150,000–€250,000 a year.



How much do pilots make in Europe?



What are commercial pilots’ salaries in the USA?


In the USA, the yearly average airline pilot salary (First Officer) in a major airline is $39,000-$119,000, while Captains in the same type of airline can make $70,000-$257,000.


Alaskan 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.



How much do pilots make in the USA?



How much do commercial airline pilots make in Asia?


In Asia, commercial airline average salary is pretty high. A First Officer can expect to make between $27,000 and $87,000, while Captains typically make around $50,000-$217,000.


The salary range can vary widely across different countries in Asia. In China, the average pilot salary of an experienced Captain is $300,000 per year. In Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong-based airline), a First Officer’s monthly salary is, on average, $5,811 (not an annual salary), whereas a Captain earns double.


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



How much do pilots make 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 (of course, it depends on the case). The main reason is that airline and cargo airline pilots have slightly different roles and work responsibilities. However, cargo pilots often have more flexible schedules than regular airline pilots.



Cargo airline operations



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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 things, we have done an approximate calculation to give you an idea.


The graph below was created based on the pilot salaries at one European airline and the total amount of money one needs for pilot training. Although it is applicable to a specific use case only, the general trend can still be seen.



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 earn back what you have invested (on average, €90,000 for initial training and Type Rating but different flight schools have their own rates). However, after that, you will see immense profit growth each year. In six years, it will reach €92,000 already. Please remember that it’s only the profit we are now talking about, not the commercial pilot salary. The salary in six years is likely to be close to €200,000, and, at that point, you will be within arm’s reach of the promotion to Captain.


What are the extras commercial pilots get on top of pilot pay?


The extras on top of the airline pilot salaries vary between airlines, but the common benefits international airline pilots receive are health, life, vision, and dental insurance and a retirement plan. They also get paid vacation time that increases with seniority. In addition, they are often provided with discounted rates on flights for family and friends.


Are pilot salaries increasing according to labor statistics?


The pilot salaries are indeed increasing, indeed, and one of the factors that impacts the pilot pay raises is the ongoing pilot shortage.


The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) estimates that the EU will need an additional 5,000 pilots by 2025. The main reasons are the increasing demand for air travel, the retirement of older pilots, and the limited supply of qualified pilots.


There is also a considerable pilot shortage in America. Major airlines in the US, such as American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest, are trying to attract commercial pilots with enough flight experience. Due to this pilot shortage, Delta Airlines’ pilot salaries will see a 34% increase over the next three years as airlines compete to attract as many qualified pilots as possible.



Airline pilot doing the job





To sum up, a commercial pilot’s average salary is one of the highest in the world. Getting a pilot license and building a pilot career in the sky can help you have the lifestyle you have always wanted and make good money, especially with experience. If you are wondering how to reach this goal, please visit this page. We can also help you get a private pilot license so you can fly for pleasure instead of entering commercial operations at a regional or major airline.