Pilot Salary Explained – By Airline and Experience

Flying is a profitable as well as a job-satisfying occupation. Pilots receive extensive training in order to develop a highly specialized skill set. Commercial pilots, as a result, are well compensated.

“In May 2020, the median annual income for commercial pilots was $93,300, while the median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers was $160,970,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Pilots are eligible for health, life, and disability insurance, as well as retirement programs, in addition to their annual pay. These programs frequently outperform those offered to employees in other areas.

Compensation of an airline pilot can range from $28,000 to several hundred thousand dollars per year, depending on the following factors:

  • Airline
  • Experience Level
  • Regional versus Major Airlines
  • Aircraft flown

What can airline pilots plan to earn?

Airline pilots work hourly and are paid for each flight hour. Because there are more work hours required, such as preflight planning, but time in the cockpit, the remuneration is often around 85 hours per month. Pilots are paid per diem in addition to flight time, which is used to repay pilots for food and beverage expenses spent while on the road.

Airline Pilot Salaries and Requirements


Alaska Airlines

As a First Officer, you start out making $93 an hour, the average is $158 an hour, and the highest paying First Officers make $179 an hour.

U.S. Passenger is based in Seattle, Washington and has its headquarters there.

The following requirements must be met before applying:

  • Hold a current FAA pilot certificate and have a valid medical certificate in order to live and work in the U.S.
  • An aircraft with a fixed wing has a total flight time of 2,000 hours or a high-performance military aircraft has a total flight time of 1,200 hours.
  • Up to 1,000 hours of rotor-wing flight time may be included in the total flight time.
  • It is preferable to have 1,000 hours of multi-engine turbine piloting experience. Although a college degree is preferred, it isn’t a requirement.

American Airlines

The starting salary of a First Officer is $90 an hour, the average salary is $213 an hour, and the top salary is $234 an hour. Captains’ starting salaries are $314 an hour, with an average of $327 an hour and a top salary of $342 an hour. Salary levels are based on flying either a Boeing 777 or Boeing 787.

The headquarters is located in Fort Worth, Texas. You should familiarize yourself with the following prerequisites before applying:

  • Ability to communicate effectively and make timely and accurate decisions
  • Paying close attention to details
  • The age requirement is 23 years old
  • Availability to work during weekends and holidays, varying hours of the day and night
  • The applicant must have the necessary airport authority and/or customs security badges
  • Background check completed by FAA
  • Having the ability to learn and use PEDs
  • Each eye should have 20/20 distance vision and 20/40 near vision corrected
  • ATP rating (Airline Transport Pilot) currently in effect
  • Permit for Restricted Radiotelephone Operators from the FCC
  • Documentation proving First Class medical status
  • Comply with all FAA requirements regarding flight time
  • Fluency in English and an understanding of it
  • Work authorization in the U.S. must be provided
  • Valid Passport

Allegiant Air

Pilot compensation varies depending on a variety of circumstances, including the type of plan, years of experience, and so on. The starting compensation for a first officer is around $57 per hour, with an average of $128 per hour and a top pay of $154 per hour. A Captain has more experience and starts at $163 per hour, averages $197 per hour, and tops out at $230 per hour.

Allegiant is a United States passenger airline with headquarters in Summerlin, Nevada.

The following are the general prerequisites for working for American Airlines:

  • Medical Certification for FAA First Class
  • Certification by the FAA for airline transport pilots
  • Airplane Multiengine Land (AMEL)
  • Permit for Radiotelephone Operators from the FCC
  • The total documented flight time must be at least 1500 hours. Military time must be converted by X1.3.
  • Experience with fixed wing turboprops or turbofans of at least 1,000 hours
  • PIC experience in an aircraft categorized as an airplane: 250 hours
  • Fixed wing multi-engine experience of at least 50 hours
  • A minimum age of 23 years old and not older than 65 years old
  • Logbooks are required for all pilots
  • Valid Driver’s License
  • Current passport
  • A background check and legal authorization to work in the U.S. are required

Delta Air

You’ll start off as a First Officer and the starting salary is $92 an hour, average salary is $220, and the top salary is $242. After many years experience, you’ll then move up to Captain. The starting salary is $325 an hour, average pay is $338 and the top is $354.

Before applying to Delta Air, make sure that you have all the requirements listed below:

  • A minimum age of 23
  • Graduating from a four-year degree program accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization
  • A member organization of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services must evaluate the equivalency of degrees obtained from non-U.S. institutions
  • Current passport
  • The applicant must be legally entitled to work in the U.S.

FAA Requirements

  • Commercial pilot license with instrument rating and multi-engine rating
  • Certificate of FAA First Class Medical Status
  • Meet all FAA requirements for ATP for airplane categories, including passing the written ATP test
  • The minimum flight time requirement is 1,500 total documented flight hours
  • Experience with a fixed-wing turboprop or turbofan of at least 1,000 hours
  • For fixed wing turboprop/turbofan aircraft, Delta Air Lines will credit 90% of the flight time logged in powered life category aircraft to their 1,000-hour requirement
  • An aircraft categorized as an airplane must have a minimum of 250 hours PIC
  • Fixed wing multi-engine experience of at least 50 hours

Other Requirements

  • To be considered for an interview, candidates must provide proof of their flight hours and college transcripts
  • Radiotelephone Operator’s Permit from the FCC
  • Pre-employment drug test
  • Background Check

Frontier Airlines

As a First Officer, your pay ranges from $58 to $162 per hour. After several years of service, you’ll be promoted to captain, with a starting wage of $184 per hour and a potential compensation of $245 per hour.

The company’s headquarters are in Denver, Colorado.

Before applying for this airline, consider the following requirements:

  • 2500 hours total time
  • 750 hours multi-engine fixed wing
  • 500 hours pilot in command
  • 500 hours jet/turbo-prop

It’s worth noting that Frontier only counts hours in fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft toward minimum requirements. Flight time logged in flight simulators, as a flight engineer, bombardier, or as a member of the Special Crew, will not be considered for these purposes. It is possible to convert to military time.

The following qualifications are required along with your flight hours:

  • Current FAA Class one Medical Certificate
  • Vision corrected to 20/20
  • ATP Certificate
  • FCC Restricted Radio Operator’s Permit
  • Valid Passport
  • Authorization to work in the United States
  • Able to travel in and out of the U.S.
  • Can Relocate
  • Ability and willingness to work weekends, nights, overnight trips, and holidays
  • Keeping a professional appearance
  • Pass a drug screen and a background check
  • Ability to communicate well in English, including ability to read, listen, and write
  • Adaptable to difficult situations and able to problem-solve

Hawaiian Airlines

Your compensation as a First Officer starts at $36 per hour and rises to $228 per hour. Captains will begin at $300 and increase to $327.

Based out of Honolulu, Hawaii and has their requirements which are as follows:

  • FAA ATP, First Class Medical, 2000 hours total time
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Preferred: 1,000 PIC
  • College Degree
  • International Flying


Pilot compensation varies depending on several factors, including the type of plane and years of experience. The starting income for a First Officer is $89 per hour, with an average of $159 per hour and a top compensation of $189 per hour. When you are promoted to captain after years of service, the starting wage is $234 per hour and increases to $269 per hour.

JetBlue’s headquarters is based in Long Island City, New York.

Ensure you meet these requirements before applying:

  • 1500 hours total time in airplanes (including turbine helicopter, excluding flight simulator, Flight Engineer)
  • 500 hours in fixed wing airplanes
  • Recency of flight experience will be considered
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airline Transport Pilot
  • Class 1 Medical Certificate
  • Ability to obtain a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Radio License
  • Passports valid for travel inside and outside the United States
  • The candidate must submit three letters of recommendation from pilots attesting personally to their skills
  • High School Diploma or GED


Your wage as a First Officer starts at $84 per hour in your first year of employment and rises to $191 per hour when you gain experience. You can earn a promotion to captain after years of service. Captains earn $241 per hour on average and $274 per hour at the top of the pay scale.

Dallas is the headquarters of Southwest Airlines. Not only do they look at your general qualifications, but also at your qualifications, abilities, knowledge, and work style.

If you are interested in applying, ensure that you meet these requirements:

  • U.S. FAA Airline Transport Pilot Certificate Unrestricted
  • A minimum age of 23 is required
  • Flight Experience: 2,500 hours total or 1,500 hours Turbine total. Additionally, a minimum of 1,000 hours in Turbine aircraft as the Pilot in Command.
  • During the last five years, you should have actively flown two of those times
  • FCC Radiotelephone Operator Permit
  • FAA Class 1 medical Certificate
  • Pass a drug test
  • Valid Driver’s License and Passport
  • Education: A four-year college degree is preferred
  • Three attestations of the pilot’s flying skills: At least three letters from people who can attest the pilot’s flying abilities.
  • Able to lift and move 40 pounds
  • Be able to comply with the company attendance
  • There is a minimum age requirement of 23 years old
  • Reading, speaking, writing, and understanding English
  • Understanding and retaining procedures, rules, and regulations as well as reading documents, following instructions, listening, understanding, and repeating long instruction texts
  • Training programs should be completed on an ongoing basis
  • Know how to handle hazardous situations in case of an emergency
  • Attention is required to moving equipment on the ramp and other aircraft in the sky
  • Having excellent interpersonal communication skills and being able to communicate effectively with others, whether verbally, face-to-face, over public announcement systems, over radio, or through other means of communication
  • Conform to attendance standards and work rules set forth in work agreements and/or established guidelines
  • Good teamwork abilities, confidence in meeting the public, and ability to handle stress
  • Clean appearance

Spirit Airlines

Pilots are compensated differently based on factors such as the type of plane and experience. As a First Officer, your beginning income is $59 per hour, with the highest-paid First Officers earning $167 per hour. Your beginning pay is $189 an hour, and your top remuneration is $252 an hour, after years of experience and promotion to captain.

Headquarters for Spirit Airlines is in Miramar Florida.

Take a look at the following requirements before applying:

  • Total flight time 3,000 hours
  • A multi-engine aircraft pilot with 1,000 hours of experience
  • First Class Medical Certificate
  • Current Unrestricted Airline Transport Pilot License
  • FCC Radiotelephone Operator Permit
  • Passport and travel documents that are valid for travel abroad
  • Legally allowed to work in the United States
  • In total, I’ve logged 4,000 hours on fixed wing aircraft
  • Aircraft with multi-engines, turboprops, or jet engines for 1,500 hours
  • A320 Type Rating
  • College or university degree from an accredited institution
  • Aviation experience with 121 airlines or turbojets
  • A working knowledge of EFIS and/or FMS
  • Instructor/Check Airman experience

Major Airline Pilots earn the highest salary

In accordance with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, airline pilots earn salaries ranging from less than $80,920 to more than $208,000 annually. Keeping in mind that the earnings of a pilot change over the course of a career, we can get an idea of how much a pilot earns.

Regional Airlines

Regional and big airlines are the two airlines. While some pilots prefer to stay with minor airlines, the majority use them as a stepping stone to the major carriers. Regional airlines often operate under the banner of a large airline but are not affiliated with it.

  • Smaller jets are usually used by regional airlines, which accommodate 50 to 75 passengers
  • Most first jobs as an airline pilot are with regional airlines
  • There are typically lower pay rates at regional airlines than at major airlines

Major Airlines

American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines are examples of major airlines. Pilots train for years in order to get employed by a large airline, and they seldom change careers. A twelfth-year first officer can work a few additional hours in order to earn over $204,880 per year.

Factors That Determine Airline Pilot Salary

Salary for airline pilots varies according to several factors. Pay is determined by the contracts each airline signs. These rates may be based on my different inputs.

Years of Experience

All commercial pilots, not just airline pilots, are hired based on their years of experience. While airline employment is based on experience, compensation offers are determined by the contracts that the airline has signed with its pilots.

Total Flight Hours

Pilot pay is paid hourly, specifically per flying hour, as previously stated. This implies that pilots who fly monthly schedules with longer flying hours will be paid more.

Aircraft Type

Depending on the aircraft, airlines pay different hourly rates to their pilots. As a general rule, the higher the hourly rate, the larger the aircraft.

Based on your seniority, you get to choose your monthly schedule of hours and the airplane you fly. As your seniority increases, you will have more say over which aircraft and schedule you fly.

Pilot Aptitude Test

A candidate’s suitability as an airline pilot is determined by the pilot aptitude tests. Because this is a sought-after profession with high success expectations. Airlines understood the significance of hiring only the best candidates for this position.

The pilot aptitude test serves as a screening tool to determine which candidates meet these stringent requirements. Mostly, the exam assesses a person’s competency, math skills, mechanical and verbal reasoning, and spatial awareness rather than directly testing his or her ability to fly.


Overall, becoming a pilot is a thrilling experience. Every airline has different requirements. When conducting research, it is best to consider all of your options.

You must not only meet the requirements of the airline for which you are applying, but you must also pass an aptitude test. So if you are looking to take the next step towards becoming a pilot, check out all you need to do to pass the aptitude test here.