Airline Academy

Airline Pilot Salary: How Much Does A Pilot Earn In The U.S.?

  • Article by L3Harris Flight Academy
  • Published
  • Duration 9 minute read

If you are considering a career as a pilot, you might be wondering what the average pilot salary in the U.S. is.

Becoming a pilot is a significant financial and time investment in your future, but one that offers a path into an incredible career. You have the potential to earn an attractive pilot salary in the U.S., as well as a great benefits package and the opportunity to travel the world.

So, how much do pilots make in the U.S.? The median annual salary for commercial pilots is around $150,000, but as you build your experience and progress through your career, you could earn more than $245,000. How much you will be earning once you become a pilot will vary depending on a number of factors as different types of pilots will earn different salaries. These factors include:

  • Airline - Is it a regional or major airline? A commercial pilot salary at a major airline tends to be higher than a regional airline
  • Experience you have - a First Officer pilot salary varies from a Captain pilot salary
  • Aircraft type - Commercial pilot pay differs from a cargo pilot salary

Request info

Funding your training

What Is The Average Salary For Airline Pilots?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, the average salary of an airline pilot, co-pilot or flight engineer is $202,180. The average wage for a commercial pilot is $99,640 (last updated October 2022).

What most people don’t know is that pilots are paid by the hour and not an annual salary.

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) sets the maximum flight times to reduce pilot fatigue. Flight time is defined as the period during which the plane is under power and capable of movement. So, how much do pilots work and earn each month? According to the Legal Information Institute:

  • Each pilot who has flown more than eight hours during 24 consecutive hours must be given at least 18 hours of rest before being assigned to any duty with the certificate holder.
  • No pilot may fly more than 32 hours during any seven consecutive days, and each pilot must be relieved from all duty for at least 24 consecutive hours at least once during any seven consecutive days.
  • No pilot may fly as a member of a crew more than 100 hours during any one calendar month.
  • No pilot may fly as a member of a crew more than 1,000 hours during any 12-calendar-month period

How much do pilots make in the U.S. under these regulations? Most airlines operate on a concept called Minimum Monthly Guarantee, this is calculated based on:

  • Base monthly pilot salary (regardless of hours worked); AND
  • Additional pay calculated at a prescribed hourly rate above the minimum number of hours

The Minimum Monthly Guarantee ensures pilots will be compensated under all conditions and receive a salary each month. In most cases, the number of guaranteed hours is approximately 75 hours per month.

Request info

Qualifications to become a pilot

What Is A Pilot’s Starting Salary In The U.S.?

As you embark on this exciting new journey to become a pilot, you’ll be wondering what your starting pilot salary may look like. For many newly qualified cadets, the first step towards a career as a pilot is as a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). 

As a newly qualified CFI, you can expect to earn upwards of $30,000 a year, making becoming a CFI a great if you are looking to build your flight experience for a career as a commercial pilot for a regional or internal airline while also earning a Flight Instructor salary.

At L3Harris, all graduates from our AAPT are guaranteed an interview to become a Flight Instructor with us, so you will be in a great position to then apply for roles at regional airlines after building up the required hours.

Request info

First Officer Pilot Salary

To secure a role as a First Officer for a regional airline and start earning a pilot salary, applicants will often need to have experience as a CFI training cadets for Instrument and Multi-Engine Ratings.

A First Officer pilot salary will differ from airline to airline, however, you can expect to earn around $35,000 - $50,000 in your first year at a well-known airline. The average First Officer pilot salary after 6 years in the role is around $50,000 - $65,000, while after 12 years of dedicated service, the average salary is anywhere between $55,000 - $70,000 at some airlines.

As many regional airlines are keen to avoid being seen as a stepping-stone to work at major airlines, First Officer salaries have become increasingly competitive. Take a look below at the following First Officer pilot salaries for each of these well-known regional airlines.

Airline

Year 1

Year 6

Year 12

Air Wisconsin

$37,000

$50,000

$57,000

Endeavor Air

$52,000

$68,000

$74,000

Horizon Air

$40,000

$50,000

$52,000

Mesa Airlines

$36,000

$41,000

$49,000

Piedmont Airlines

$50,000

$56,000

$56,000

PSA Airlines

$50,000

$56,000

$56,000

Republic Airways

$46,000

$56,000

$63,000

Source: https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/airline-pilot-salary-SRCH_KO0,13.htm 

Source: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes532011.htm

Major airlines (airlines that generate more than $1 billion annually in revenue) tend to have higher pilot salaries than regional airlines. In your first role at a major airline, you could expect a pilot salary of around $55,000 - $90,000, depending on which airline you work for. This rises to $95,000 - $155,000 on average after 6 years of service. If you stay in your role as a First Officer for 12 years, your pilot salary could increase to $150,000 - $240,000.

The First Officer pilot salaries below are based on approximately 1,000 flying hours per year at major airlines.

Airline

Year 1

Year 6

Year 12

Air Canada

$56,000

$157,000

$190,000

Air Alaska

$93,000

$158,000

$179,000

American Airlines

$90,000

$224,000

$245,000

Allegiant Air

$57,000

$128,000

$154,000

Cathay Pacific

$69,732

$95,712

$106,536

Delta Air Lines

$92,000

$220,000

$232,000

Emirates

$67,956

$78,768

$81,132

Southwest Airlines

$84,000

$171,000

$191,000

Source: https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/airline-pilot-salary-SRCH_KO0,13.htm 

Source: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes532011.htm

First Officers are also in demand at cargo airlines. To qualify for First Officer roles with these airlines and to start earning your cargo pilot salary, applicants will typically need to have completed an AAPT course.

How much do pilots make at cargo airlines? As a First Officer in year 1 of your role, you will make a pilot salary of around $80,000 on average. After 6 years, your salary increases to an average of $150,000 and as you approach 12 years in the role, you could expect a First Officer salary of $160,000-$230,000.

The average First Officer pilot salary for a cargo airline is around the following:

Airline

Year 1

Year 6

Year 12

Air Transport International

$83,000

$156,000

$181,000

Atlas Air

$87,00

$135,000

$164,000

FedEx Express

$84,000

$202,000

$233,000

Kalitta Air

$117,000

$171,000

$198,000

Southern Air

$87,000

$135,000

$164,000

United Parcel Service

$50,000

$204,000

$235,000

Source: https://www.indeed.com/career/cargo-pilot/salaries

Request info

How to become a pilot

 

Airline Captain Salaries

Many of our cadets also go on to work in Captain positions. The role of Captain demands a high level of responsibility and commitment, and you’ll need to fulfil a lot of duties. However,  this level of responsibility is reflected in the higher average salary.

To become a Captain for a regional airline you will need to hold a Commercial Instrument Rating, Multi-Engine Rating and have completed an AAPT course. Applicants for Captain positions will also often be required to have experience working in a similar role, typically as a First Officer.

Some regional airlines pay their airline Captain salary by the hour to reflect the number of flight hours they have undertaken. As you become a Captain for a regional airline, you can expect to earn between $70,000 - $90,000. After 6 years, your Captain salary will have increased to around $80,000 - $100,000 on average. Following 12 years of hard work and undertaking responsibility as a Captain, you could earn $95,000 - $115,000.

Below are some of the expected salaries for the country’s leading regional airlines.

Airline

Year 1

Year 6

Year 12

Air Wisconsin

$71,000

$84,000

$100,000

Endeavor Air

$92,000

$103,000

$118,000

Horizon Air

$70,000

$82,000

$101,000

Mesa Airlines

$66,000

$77,000

$92,000

Piedmont Airlines

$76,000

$85,000

$96,000

PSA Airlines

$82,000

$92,000

$104,000

Republic Airways

$90,000

$101,000

$116,000

Source: https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/airline-pilot-salary-SRCH_KO0,13.htm 

Source: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes532011.htm

Requirements for Captain positions at cargo airlines differ from that of regional and major airlines. Applicants will be expected to have at least 500 hours of flight time as the pilot in command and a minimum of 5,000 hours total flight experience.

In your first year as Captain for a cargo airline, you can expect to make between $140,000 - $170,000 on average. After 6 years, your cargo pilot salary rises to anywhere between $200,000 - $300,000 and if you’re a Captain after 12 years, your hard work will be reflected in a pilot salary of $230,000 - $330,000.

A cargo airline pilot salary is typically around the following.

Airline

Year 1

Year 6

Year 12

Air Transport Int’l

$140,000

$230,000

$268,000

Atlas Air

$169,000

$196,000

$234,000

FedEx Express

$276,000

$311,000

$326,000

Kalitta Air

$154,000

$252,000

$293,000

Southern Air

$169,000

$196,000

$234,000

United Parcel Service

$50,000

$314,000

$329,000

Source: ​​https://www.indeed.com/career/cargo-pilot/salaries

Can You Receive Signing Bonuses on Top of Your Pilot Salary in the U.S.?

Yes, most regional airlines do offer signing bonuses on top of your normal pilot salary to attract commercial pilots as a result of the pilot shortage. Signing bonuses typically vary depending on your experience and can range from $5,000 to $180,000. For example:

What Is the Employment Outlook for Pilots in the U.S.?

The employment outlook for pilots is very promising as, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, overall employment of airline and commercial pilots is projected to grow 13% from 2020 to 2030 - faster than the average for all occupations:

  • Projected employment for airline pilots, co-pilots, and flight engineers is expected to reach 85,000
  • For commercial pilots, it is expected to reach 43,600 by 2030

With the support of L3Harris, you can become one of the 43,600 people embarking on a career as a commercial pilot. We are proud to have strong airline relationships, offering incredible career opportunities. Apply to start your training to become a commercial airline pilot today.

Request info

Book a Discovery Flight

How Do I Become A Commercial Airline Pilot?

With hard work, dedication and the support of L3Harris Flight Academy, you’ll be on your way to receiving your attractive starting pilot salary in no time at all. At L3Harris, we offer a range of pilot training courses to get you on your way to securing a role as a commercial airline pilot:

  • Our AAPT course can be the quickest route to securing your Commercial Pilot License and Certified Flight Instructor Certificate

While the average salary of a pilot in the U.S. differs due to a number of factors, the more experience you have and the stronger skills you can demonstrate, the quicker you will work your way up the ladder. Whilst most regional airlines do not require a college degree, many major airlines do prefer pilots to have obtained an undergraduate degree. A college degree demonstrates a cadet’s ability, disciple, and commitment, and importantly, can give you a competitive edge over other applicants.

Do you have any questions about the average pay for an airline pilot or want to find out more about how L3Harris can support you with reaching your pilot potential? Get in touch with us today, or take a look at our FAQs to learn everything there is to know about the L3Harris Flight Academy.

Request info

Funding your training

What's next?

If you are feeling inspired by this article then we have several others that could be of interest to you. Excited for the next step? Feel free to look at our guides on ‘How to become a pilot’ as well as our FAQs.

Previous post
  • Published
  • Duration 9 minute read
  • Published
  • Duration 9 minute read
Next post