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Pilot Career Salaries: How Much Can You Make At The Airlines?

Becoming a commercial airline pilot is a dream for many people who are looking for a challenging and rewarding career. With the increasing demand for pilots in the industry, it’s an opportunity that promises exciting travel opportunities, a lucrative salary and top-notch benefits. If you’re considering pursuing this career, you may be wondering about the salary and qualifications required for different types of airline pilot jobs. Let’s take a closer look at the various types of airline pilot jobs, including major airlines, regional airlines and private airlines, to find insight into the salaries, qualifications and perks associated with each. Plus, we’ll examine several specific examples of salary-benefit standards from the industry’s most popular airlines. Whether you’re just starting out with a training program or considering a career change, this guide will help you determine which path is right for you.

Pilot Jobs In The Airline Industry

The two main pilot positions within the airline industry are captain and first officer. They’re both responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft, however the captain is the most senior pilot in the cockpit and ultimately responsible for the operation of the plane, flight planning, communicating with air traffic control and supervising crew. First officer is second in command and supports the captain in any way possible. Overall, you can fly as a captain and first officer for major airlines like Delta or American, regional airlines like Envoy or Sun Country, or private airlines like NetJets or Wheels Up. 

Major Airline Pilot

If you’ve always wanted to occupy a globetrotting position that’s prestigious and challenging, a major airline pilot will put you at the top of the aviation industry. In this position, you’ll have the opportunity to travel the world while earning a high salary and enjoying flexible scheduling. Flying larger jets and both domestic and international routes, you’ll find a sense of adventure every time you clock in for work.

And, with a salary range of $100,000 to $350,000 per year, major airline pilots can earn a comfortable living along with generous benefits packages. Such benefits include retirement plans, profit-sharing opportunities, life, medical, dental and vision insurance, and paid training. Airline pilots are not allowed to fly over 75 hours per month, and work an average of 150 hours per month performing other duties, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the free travel perks that come with the job, as well.

In order to become a major airline pilot, you’ll need to obtain an airline transport pilot (ATP) license – this certifies that you’ve received the proper training and are qualified to safely fly passengers. To obtain an ATP license, you’ll need to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight experience, including at least 250 hours as a pilot in command. You’ll also need to pass a rigorous written and practical exams, demonstrating your knowledge and proficiency in aviation regulations, safety, navigation and aircraft systems.

Average Salaries At Major Airline Companies

For those dreaming of occupying a prestigious yet challenging job at the top of the industry, consider training for a position at a major airline – here are some salary expectations at some of the top companies. 

American Airlines

The average salaries for first officers at American Airlines in the United States is $109,300 per year, while captains make the most with an average annual salary of $205,000. You also get benefits like a 401(k) plan with company matching after year one, travel privileges for family and friends, and scholarship opportunities for dependents.

Delta Air Lines

According to jobs data, on average, a new first officer at Delta Air Lines can expect to earn approximately $108,250 per year, while a senior captain can earn up to $257,000 per year. Delta recently raised their pay for all pilots, in a new contract worth $7 billion, meaning there are great jobs out there ready for the picking. Beyond the high pay, pilots that work here enjoy other things like profit sharing, gym memberships and competitive life insurance.

United Airlines

Average United Airlines Captain yearly pay in the United States is approximately $273,500, with first officers making United Airlines First Officer yearly pay in the United States is approximately $176,600, according to Indeed. In addition to traditional benefits found at most airlines, United strives to help pilots develop both socially and professionally, offering the opportunity to join social, athletic or activity clubs around the world, as well as business resource groups that align with your career goals.

Regional Airline Pilot

Becoming a regional airline pilot is an exciting career choice that offers a unique experience in the cockpit. One of the most significant advantages of pursuing this career is the opportunity to acquire valuable flight hours that can contribute to a future career as a major airline pilot. Regional airline pilots often fly into smaller, more remote airports and operate narrow-body planes, which present a distinct set of challenges. This helps to develop and refine your skills, ultimately preparing you to take on larger aircraft and more complex routes in the future. By honing your abilities as a regional airline pilot, you’ll build the foundation necessary to fly jumbo jets for a major airline within just a few years.

Of course, many pilots prefer the more personable nature and shorter routes that smaller regional airlines offer, so they stay – and can make a decent wage doing so. Thanks to the ongoing pilot shortage, regional pilot pay has become competitive with salaries at major airlines. Companies have had a hard time attracting talent, which in turn affects the flights they can offer, so they’ve increased incentives and training opportunities. In fact, wages have increased across the board at companies like Mesa Airlines, American Eagle and United Express, anywhere from $90,000 for rookies, up to $200,000 and more for experienced captains.

Similar to majors, regional airline pilots normally need to have an ATP license, or qualify for one, in order to be employable. Some companies may also require a bachelor’s degree or other post-secondary education. 

Average Salaries At Regional Airline Companies

For those who’d rather work on a close-knit team, flying more untraditional routes in exciting airplanes, a regional airline pilot career may be for you – here’s what you can expect to make at a few of the top regional airlines. 

Envoy & Piedmont Airlines

American Airlines’ regional carriers Envoy and Piedmont have both recently announced a huge pay raise for their pilots – under a recently bargained contract, first-year captains will earn $146 an hour, and entry-level first officers will make $90 an hour at both airlines. This is an increase from $78 and $51 at Piedmont, and $86 at Envoy. 

Mesa Airlines

United Airlines subsidiary, Mesa Airlines, recently announced a large pay raise for pilots, including an increase to $100 an hour for entry-level first officers and $150 an hour for first-year captains. Captains with two decades of experience will level out at $215 an hour.

Sun Country Airlines

Headquartered in Minneapolis, Sun Country has also announced a pilot pay raise, with an average salary increase of 35 to 45 percent for first-year pilots. As a 737 captain, you can expect to earn a salary between $190,000 to $264,000 per year, depending on your level of seniority; as a first officer, you can expect to earn a salary ranging from $78,000 to $173,000. 

Business & Private Jet Pilot

Flying smaller, twin-engine jets for high-end clientele, a career as a business jet pilot is a highly sought-after and lucrative alternative to flying for traditional airlines. In this job, you’re responsible for flying high-profile clients, like executives and celebrities on private aircraft, often to exclusive destinations around the world. In addition to flying the plane, you must also provide a high level of customer service, ensuring that passengers have a comfortable and luxurious travel experience. 

The salaries for business jet pilots can vary widely depending on the size and type of aircraft, experience level, and employer. On average, business jet pilots can expect to earn between $75,000 to $150,000 per year, with some senior pilots earning upwards of $200,000 or more. Many business jet companies also offer attractive benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, and travel perks.

To fly for a business or private airline, you’ll need to be commercially licensed, and most likely obtain a type rating, which shows that you’re proficient operating a specific type of aircraft. If you want to fly as a captain, or fly larger company planes, you’ll need an ATP License as well. Most companies will require you to at least meet the requirements for ATP, or the Restricted ATP with a multi-engine rating.

Average Salaries At Business & Private Airline Companies


This popular business airline, owned by Berkshire-Hathaway, offers fractional ownership and rental options for private jet travel. The average salary, according to recent reporting, is almost $184,000 a year, with a low of $71,000 and a high of almost $350,000. Perks include 401(k) with company matching, travel and hotel expenses paid for, and exciting routes that visit 1,800 airports annually.


Another major player in the business jet industry, Flexjet offers fractional ownership and charter flight services, with a focus on providing personalized travel experiences. According to Flexjet, first-year pilots can expect to earn over $103,000, with a qualifying bonus of $5,000 and the highest per diem in the industry, at $42 per day or $8,400 per year. The company also provides a credit card for incidentals, so you won’t have to worry about out-of-pocket expenses. Other benefits include a company-provided iPad and iPhone, paid medical exam and tuition reimbursement for further educational pursuits.

Wheels Up Airlines

This innovative company offers a membership-based model that allows customers to book flights on private jets at a lower cost than traditional charter services. Here, you’ll find an industry-leading base pay of approximately $70,000 to $118,000 for first year pilots, with opportunities to earn additional compensation. Other interesting incentives include a sign-on bonus, vested equity ownership and full payment of Known Crew Member (KCM) access.

Now You Can Take Off As An Airline Pilot

There are a variety of commercial pilot opportunities available depending on your desired airline type. Major airlines offer the chance to fly large jets on traditional international and domestic routes, while smaller regionals offer a wide variety of routes in different aircraft and the chance to bond with a close-knit crew. Private airlines serve high-end clientele in smaller twin-engine aircraft, providing the opportunity to fly to a number of locations around the world. Regardless of your choice, any reputable company should offer an attractive salary that’s in-line with industry standards, good benefits, and favorable working conditions. As a result of the current pilot shortage, there are many high-paying opportunities available throughout the aviation industry, so take your time when choosing a job. Good luck, and enjoy your new career as a pilot!

Do you want to recalibrate your career path? Contact Inflight Pilot Training today!

Are you searching for an airline pilot program that can put you on a path toward new, exciting job opportunities? Then get in touch with the team at Inflight Pilot Training today. We offer all levels of certifications and ratings, and will help you obtain the proper license to fly for the airlines, whether major, regional or private. Get paid to fly – sign up for ATP license training today 

Our skilled instructors will elevate your learning experience as you take to the skies. If you’re interested in learning more about Inflight programs, contact us now or call (952) 698-3000.