By Seerat Arora 15 Jun 2020 5 min read

Commercial Pilot: Salary Guide

Have you ever wondered ‘What is the salary of a commercial pilot?’. The starting annual commercial pilot pay for a newly qualified pilot working for a small operation may be around $54,000 and could rise to over $450,000 for an experienced long-haul captain. 

The training procedure to become a pilot can be very expensive, sometimes as much as $100,000. However, it could result in a very lucrative career; commercial pilots make around $103,910 in a year in the USA according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022.

The average yearly wage for commercial airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers is $211,790. An airline pilot could have different salaries with different airlines, flying various types of aircraft.

Remember, these numbers are rough estimates. The commercial airline pilot salary varies in every country and depends on several other factors. The estimates in this article are according to the US market.

Now, let’s get into some details about commercial pilot salary. We are not going to talk about commercial pilot salary per month, rather we’ll give you the annual salary for commercial pilot.

How much do pilots earn?

The salary of a pilot depends on various factors, like the following:

  • the airline, 
  • the level of experience gained by the individual, 
  • and, the type of aircraft flown. 

Salaries will vary but tend to increase with each year of service with a company, according to BALPA. So newly qualified pilots will likely be paid a low wage initially, which will increase as experience and years of employment increase.

The starting salary for a newly qualified first officer working for a small operation may be around $30,000 to $40,000.

Starting salaries for those in larger companies are higher at around $60,000 to $80,000.

Experienced commercial airline pilot salary could range from $80,000 to $95,000 in a first officer role. The starting salary for a captain with a medium-sized airline may range from $80,000 to $90,000, while those with major operators could earn from $95,000 to over $130,000.

Highest-Paying Airlines

Delta Airlines is one of the best airlines to fly when considering the average commercial flight pilot salary. The median salary of pilots in Delta Airlines is $185,000 to $250,000.

Moreover, Delta provides unmatched job security and strong financial backing with top compensation and retirement packages. Its lifestyle flexibility, transparent leadership, and commitment to sustainability make Delta Airlines one of the best airlines for pilots. 

What is the average salary of a commercial pilot?

Industry estimates suggest that pilots earn between $50,000 to $150,000 annually, depending on experience, airline, and aircraft type.

How much do commercial pilots make?

Average salary of a commercial pilot: $100,000
Average salary for captain: $95,000
Average salary for a senior first officer: $100,000
Average salary for first officer: $85,000

Designation Small & medium twin-engine turboprop aircraft Executive Jet aircraft Small & Medium Short Haul Jet aircraft Large Long Haul Jet aircraft
First Officer $85,000 $90,000 $90,000 $93,600
Captain $103,000 $165,000 $104,200 $121,400

These commercial pilot salary estimates are subject to change due to various factors - like flying hours, airlines, demand, flying experience, etc.

Other benefits:

When asked, ‘What do commercial pilots make? There are so many benefits beyond the basic salary. 

Flight duty pay

Flight duty pay is additional pay that can affect monthly take-home, although not all airlines use this system. It varies from company to company but is an element of commercial flight pilot salary based on being at work, in addition to basic salary. 

Often this is taxed at a different rate than the base salary. Flight Duty Pay can be a flat rate per sector or an hourly rate and can be based on duty time or flight time.

Incremental pay and benefits

It’s worth remembering that commercial pilot pay is often incremental, rising with each year of service within the company. There are also benefits and rewards, including signing bonuses, health insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and a retirement plan. You’ll also get a pension scheme, various allowances, health coverage, and discounted travel.

Beyond the average commercial pilot salary, there are other benefits, including paid vacation time, sick days, holidays, and food expenses, and you also get to benefit from your schedule. Because a pilot can only fly 1,000 hours per year, you get as much as two weeks off every month, so you have more leisure time. You also get free airfare via jumpseats and the benefit of staying in wonderful locations between work.

Working hours

In the role of pilot, unusual working hours should be expected. The length of a working day varies depending on the company and route but can range from 3 to 12 hours. The start times of a day will often differ depending on the route, sometimes beginning in the early morning and sometimes late at night.

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Becoming a Commercial Pilot

There are several reasons other than the average commercial airline pilot salary to become a pilot. Many people dream of it all their lives, and only a few find their dream pilot jobs.

Becoming a successful pilot requires a lot of work and dedication, with pilots requiring extensive training to qualify, and pass certain tests every six months. Along with preparing for these tests, commercial pilots must also pass a medical examination every year. 

You should also consider the realistic financial commitments to become a pilot. A typical CPL (Commercial Pilot Licence) course will cost approximately $80,000 to $100,000. “The course lasts about 6 months and is extremely intensive, requiring a huge amount of effort and willpower to complete,” says the BALPA. 

Even though the courses are expensive, they are justified when you ask, ‘How much do commercial pilots make?’ The average commercial pilot salary is worth the expense.

However, many airlines require more than a CPL before they will let you apply for a job. Quite often pilots find themselves having to train for additional “type ratings” which qualifies them to fly a particular type of airliner, and this course can cost around $8,000 to $12,000. To learn more about the training involved, read our article on how to become a pilot in the UK.

We also have an article on pilot salary for a better understanding of how much pilots make annually.