Have you ever wondered ‘how much do pilots earn?’. The starting salary for a newly qualified commercial pilot working for a small operation may be around £22,000 and could rise to well over £100,000 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; airline pilot was the 6th highest paid full-time profession in the UK according to the 2018 ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.
Read on to discover how much a pilot could earn with different airlines, flying different types of aircraft.
Short Haul Pilot Salary:
First Officer: £35,000 – £60,000
Captain: £60,000 – £100,000
Long Haul Pilot Salary:
First Officer: £45,000 – £120,000
Captain: £80,000 – £170,000
How much do pilots earn?
This greatly depends on 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 £22,000 (or $35,000).
Starting salaries for those in larger companies are higher at around £24,000 pa to £28,000 pa ($38,000 to $45,000).
Salaries for more experienced commercial pilots could range from £28,000 ($45,000) to £60,000 ($75,000) in a first officer role. The starting salary for a captain with a medium-sized airline may range from £54,000 ($87,000) to £75,000 ($120,000), while those with the major operators could earn from £97,000 ($156,000) to over £140,000 ($225,000).
British Airways is one of the best airlines to fly for in terms of average salaries. Our calculations suggest that a long-haul pilot with plenty of experience could well reach the £150,000 mark. Even some low-cost airlines like Ryanair can pay their senior captains up to £100,000.
What is the average salary of a commercial pilot?
Industry estimates suggest that UK pilots can earn between £22,000 – £170,000 per year, depending on experience, airline and type of aircraft.
The following average salaries are based on the pilot jobs listed on Aviation Job Search in 2019.
Average pilot salary: £71,962.86
Average salary for captain: £81,493.54
Average salary for senior first officer: £72,270
Average salary for first officer: £58,409.96
(updated December 2019)
Small & medium twin-engine turboprop aircraft:
For example: Flybe, CityJet & Eastern Airways
First Officer: £22,000 – £40,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £3,000 flight duty pay)
Captain: £50,000 – £70,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £3,000 flight duty pay)
Executive Jet aircraft:
For example: NetJets, TAG Aviation, Ocean Sky
First Officer: £28,000 – £50,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £6,000 flight duty pay)
Captain: £50,000 – £95,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £7,000 flight duty pay)
Small & Medium – Short Haul Jet aircraft:
For example: Airbus 319 / 320 / 321, Boeing 737, 757 and Embraer 190/195. Examples of airlines include Air Southwest, British Airways Short Haul, CityJet, easyJet, Fly Dubai, Jet2, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Ryanair and Wizz Air
First Officer: £35,000 – £60,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £8,000 flight duty pay)
Captain: £60,000 – £100,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £9,000 flight duty pay)
Large – Long Haul Jet aircraft:
For example: Airbus 330, 340, 380, Boeing 747, 767, 777, 787. Airline examples might include Air France, American Airlines, British Airways Long Haul, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic
First Officer: £45,000 – £120,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £8,000 flight duty pay)
Captain: £80,000 – £170,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £13,000 flight duty pay)
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 essentially Flight Duty Pay is an element of pay based on a pilot being at work, in addition to basic salary. Often this is taxed at a different rate to the main 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 a pilot’s salary is often incremental, rising with each year of service within the company. And benefits and rewards should be taken into account too, 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 cover and discounted travel.
Other benefits include paid vacation time, sick days, holidays, 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, plus the benefit of staying in wonderful locations in between work.
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 three to twelve 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.
Becoming an airline pilot
Becoming a successful pilot requires a lot of work and dedication, with pilots required to undergo extensive training to qualify, and pass certain tests every six months. The realistic financial commitments to become a pilot must be taken in to consideration too. As well as studying for these tests, commercial pilots must pass a medical examination every year.
According to the British Airline Pilots Association, a typical ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence) course will cost approximately £60,000 which usually does not include the price of accommodation and living expenses. “The course lasts for about 18 months and is extremely intensive, requiring a huge amount of effort and willpower to complete,” says the BALPA. However, many airlines require more than an ATPL 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 £25,000. To find out more about the training involved, read our article on how to become a pilot in the UK.
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