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Regional Airline Pilots: Training Cost vs. Salary

For many, a career with a regional airline is an attractive entry point into the aviation industry. Regional airlines offer opportunities for pilots to gain flight experience, build flight hours and work their way up to larger airlines. However, with the high cost of flight training, it’s important that you consider the potential return on investment before embarking on the airline pilot training process. After all, it can be a long and expensive process – but in the end, it may be worth it since industry salaries are at their highest point ever. 

What Is The Average Regional Pilot Salary?

The salary of regional airline pilots varies depending on experience, seniority and other factors, like the airline they work for and type of aircraft they fly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers was $134,630 in 2021.

Although regional airline pilots typically earned less than major airline pilots in the past, pay has been rising. Starting salaries in the industry are now starting at $90,000 in many cases, with generous signing bonuses and hefty benefits. And, with experience and seniority, regional airline pilots can earn even more, many earning six-figure salaries after just a few years. Because of the pilot shortage, many of these regional airlines are now offering the most competitive pay out there – let’s take a look at some of these companies and what pilot’s can expect to make when working for them.

Endeavor Air – Delta

Endeavor Air is a regional airline based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines. Originally founded in 1985 as Express Airlines I, the airline has gone through several name and ownership changes over the years. Today, Endeavor Air operates over 150 regional flights daily, serving destinations throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

Working for Endeavor Air as a pilot can offer several benefits, including a competitive compensation package and opportunities for career growth within the Delta Air Lines family. The airline prioritizes employee development and provides a comprehensive training program for new pilots, including a pathway to a guaranteed Delta Air Lines job interview through the Delta Propel program. With a fleet of modern regional jets and a commitment to providing exceptional customer service, Endeavor Air is a great option for pilots looking to build their careers in the aviation industry.

You can expect a first-year starting pay rate of $100 an hour, with a 75-hour monthly guarantee. Third-year captain pay rates are almost $160 an hour with a $10,000 training completion bonus, additional $10,000 – $30,000 sign-on qualifying experience bonus, up to $110,000 in retention bonuses after Captain upgrade, and 401(k) company match starting on your first day.

Envoy Air

Envoy Air, formerly known as American Eagle Airlines, is the regional airline division of American Airlines. Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Envoy Air operates more than 800 daily flights to over 150 destinations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The airline’s fleet consists of Embraer and Bombardier regional jets, with plans to expand to include larger aircraft in the future.

As a pilot with Envoy Air, you would have the opportunity to gain valuable flight experience and work your way up to a position with American Airlines. Envoy Air offers a range of benefits for its employees, including competitive pay, health and wellness programs, and travel privileges on American Airlines and its partner airlines. And, they’ve recently made progress improving pilot compensation.

Envoy Air also provides a variety of training and career development opportunities for its pilots, including opportunities to become a captain or instructor. Here, you can expect to make $90 an hour during your first year, maxing out at $108.75 after year three. As a first-year captain, you’ll make $146.25 an hour, maxing out at $213.75 at year 19.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is a major American airline headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Founded in 1932, the airline has grown to become the fifth-largest airline in the United States, operating over 1,200 daily flights to more than 115 destinations across the United States, Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica. 

As a pilot with Alaska Airlines, you would have the opportunity to fly a modern fleet of Boeing and Airbus aircraft, and be part of a company that values safety, innovation, and environmental responsibility. Alaska Airlines also offers a competitive compensation package and opportunities for career growth within the company. With a strong commitment to its employees and customers, Alaska Airlines is a great option for pilots looking to build their careers in the aviation industry.

With the pilot shortage still in full swing and demand returning for regional flights, Alaska Airlines ratified a new contract with their pilots, offering increased salaries and benefits, including:

  • A top of scale captain rate of $306 (increasing to $318 in 2023 and $330 in 2024).
  • First year first officers rate of $100 per hour.
  • A market rate adjustment that keeps pilots in line with peers at other airlines in the years ahead.
  • Flexibility to build schedules you want with the ability to drop and trade.
  • Stronger job security to ensure the pilot group grows as the company grows.

The Cost Of Regional Airline Pilot Training

Regional airlines have several requirements their pilot’s must meet before they can be considered for a position as first officer or captain. 

To apply for a regional airline pilot position, you will need to meet certain qualifications and requirements set by the airline. In general, you need a minimum of a commercial pilot’s license and a multi-engine rating to be considered. However, most airlines prefer or require an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate, which is the highest level of pilot certification and requires a significant amount of flight experience and training.

While some airlines may allow you to apply if you qualify for an ATP certificate, having the certificate already in hand will make you a more competitive candidate. Additionally, most airlines have minimum flight hour requirements, typically 1,500 hours of flight time.

Starting From Scratch: Costs Of PPL Through CPL

If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to first obtain several different certifications and ratings before you can apply for a regional airline pilot position. This requires time, effort and, of course, financing. Let’s explore the cost of what it takes to first get your commercial pilot license (CPL).

Obtaining a private pilot license (PPL) is the first step in this entire process. This involves learning the basics of flying a single-engine plane, ground school and written exams. This will take you anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete. The cost of a PPL, on average, is anywhere from $12,000 to $18,000 nationally. From here, you’ll move onto more complex ratings that will really expand your skills in the cockpit. 

Following the PPL, you’ll obtain an instrument rating. This will provide you with the skills to navigate an airplane in low-visibility conditions. Overall, you’ll become a safer, more capable pilot when you can fly by way of avionics only. You’ll need to complete such training tasks as ​​50 hours of cross-country flying and pass a practical flight exam. Expect to pay anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 for this rating.

The next step in becoming a commercial pilot is to accumulate the necessary flight experience. You will need to log a minimum of 250 hours of flight time, including 100 hours as pilot-in-command and 50 hours of cross-country flight time, in order to qualify for a commercial pilot license (CPL).

To reach this threshold, you’ll need to continue flying to build your hours. This is a critical phase of your training, as it allows you to gain valuable experience and proficiency in handling different types of aircraft and weather conditions. While there are ways to minimize costs during this portion of your training, such as flying with a partner or using less expensive aircraft, you can expect to spend around $10,000 to $15,000 to accumulate the necessary hours. This is assuming you have only completed the flight time required for your PPL and instrument rating.

Commercial Pilot License & Multi-Engine Rating

Once you’ve accumulated the necessary hours, you can move onto your CPL and multi-engine rating.

To obtain a CPL, you will need to pass a written knowledge test and a practical flight test with a certified flight examiner. The practical test covers a wide range of flight maneuvers, safety procedures, emergency training and much more. The cost of obtaining a CPL can vary depending on the type of aircraft you use for training, the cost of fuel and the fees charged by your flight school. However, you can generally expect to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 to obtain a CPL.

In addition to a CPL, you will need to obtain a multi-engine rating if you want to fly larger aircraft, such as those used by regional airlines. This involves completing additional flight training and passing a practical flight test in a multi-engine aircraft. The cost of obtaining a multi-engine rating can vary depending on the type of aircraft you use for training and the fees charged by your flight school. However, you can generally expect to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 to obtain a multi-engine rating.

ATP License Cost

The airline transport pilot certificate (ATP) is the most advanced license in the aviation industry, and it’s required to fly for regional airlines. However, before you can apply for an ATP license, you’ll need to complete the above steps and then move on to building at least 1,500 hours of flight time. Reaching this point can take several years and cost tens of thousands of dollars if you’re paying out of pocket. It’s important to note that becoming a captain takes even longer and requires more training.

In general, this certificate can range from $5,000 to $8,000, which only covers the cost of ATP training, knowledge exams, and practical tests, not the 1,500 hours that come before. To help fund the whole process, many aspiring pilots use their CPL and multi-engine rating to build flight hours while making money in a commercial industry like agriculture, medical or law enforcement, among others

Bachelor’s Degree

Don’t forget to take into account that most airlines require a bachelor’s degree of some sort. Your degree doesn’t need to be aviation-related, although that may help you stand out in a crowded field. With that in mind, college costs vary widely these days. On average, however, the cost for on-campus living and tuition is about $25,500 a year. There are ways to save money, of course, like attending a state school or living at home while studying. But, it’s another cost to consider when dreaming of taking off in a career as a regional airline pilot.

Get Your Professional Pilot License At Inflight Pilot Training

Over the years, Inflight Pilot Training has become the Twin Cities premier flight school, offering high-quality pilot training that’s more efficient and more affordable. We’ll set you on the right course so you can eventually become a regional airline pilot. 

Ultimately, we’ll help you land the job of your dreams that will allow you to make a hefty salary, with great benefits in a prestigious role – you can finance the entire training process as fast as you’d like, while doing something that you truly enjoy.

If you’re interested in learning more about Inflight training programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.