Pilot Salary and the Amount of Money That Pilots Make

The above-average pilot compensation is a wonderful bonus, but the majority of pilots join the profession because they are passionate about flying.

But you’re probably interested in knowing “how much pilots make” if you’re thinking about becoming an airline pilot.

You’ll learn what a pilot makes in this post and find out how much you may make working as a commercial airline pilot.

One of the best periods in history to become a pilot is right now. As more and more people fly and fewer people enter this sector of work, pilot earnings have been rising every year.

An airline pilot profession may be a terrific option for you, whether you’re still in high school and trying to decide on a career or are thinking about changing your career later in life.

How is a Pilot’s Salary Calculated?

Airline pilots don’t necessarily get paid a “salary”. Instead, pilots are paid per flight hour. As of August 2023, the average airline pilot salary in the United States was $102,851. 

But if you’re researching this as a possible career there is a lot more to consider than just the national average.

In order to ensure pilots are not overworked, airline pilots are limited to 1,000 flight hours per year. With that information and the pilot’s hourly rate, you can find out what your maximum earning potential is for an airline pilot’s salary.

It’s important to note that there are other benefits to working for an airline beyond the pilot salary, but we’ll get into that later.

Factors That Determine Airline Pilot Salary

Just like any other career, an airline pilot’s salary varies depending on a variety of factors. Each airline sets its pay rates based on the contracts it signs. These rates may be based on many different inputs.

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Years of Experience

All commercial pilots, not just airline pilots, are hired based on a number of factors, including years of experience.

While airline hiring is based on experience, the remuneration packages are determined by the agreements the airline has with its pilots.

The income you are offered may depend on your experience in comparison to other commercial airline pilot jobs.

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Total Flight Hours

As previously indicated, pilot salaries are paid hourly, particularly for each flight hour. This logically implies that pilots will be paid more when they fly on monthly schedules with longer flying times.

Aircraft Type

Depending on the type of aircraft they fly, the airlines pay their pilots at varied hourly rates. The hourly rate often increases with the size of the aircraft.

Airline Pilot Salaries

Major Airline Captain Salaries

All pilot salaries given below are approximations based on information currently available and assume a yearly flying time of 1,000 hours. Be aware that airline pay fluctuates frequently.

The type of aircraft a commercial pilot flies will influence their pay. We’ve provided the plane connected to the listed pay when it’s available.

AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 12
Air CanadaA320$190,000$198,000$211,000
American AirlinesA320$255,000$263,000$278,000
Delta AirlinesA320$251,000$260,000$274,000
Frontier Airlines$191,000$216,000$254,000
Hawaiian AirlinesA321$245,000$253,000$267,000
JetBlue AirwaysA320$240,000$252,000$275,000
Southwest Airlines737$241,000$253,000$274,000
Spirit AirlinesA320$189,000$214,000$252,000
United AirlinesA320$260,000$268,000$283,000

Major Airline First Officer Salaries

First officers are frequently hired from regional flights by major carriers. As you can see, the starting pay for these pilots is typically lower than the starting pay for the captain at regional airlines. Therefore, pilots who make the jump will see a slight pay cut.

The pilot salaries mentioned under year 1 in the table below will likely grow significantly in the next years for most large airlines as a result of the recent trend among major airlines to offer incentives to pilots who transfer from regional to major carriers.

AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 12
Air CanadaA320$56,000$109,000$140,000
American AirlinesA320$90,000$169,000$190,000
Delta AirlinesA320$92,000$166,000$187,000
Frontier Airlines$58,000$134,000$168,000
Hawaiian AirlinesA321$36,000$157,000$186,000
JetBlue AirlinesA320$92,000$162,000$185,000
Southwest Airlines737$84,000$164,000$191,000
Spirit AirlinesA320$59,000$133,000$167,000
United AirlinesA320$91,000$172,000$193,000

Sample Airline Pilot Salaries for Regional Airlines

AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 12
Air WisconsinCRJ200$71,000$81,000$100,000
Endeavor AirCRJ200$89,000$97,000$114,000
Envoy AirCRJ700$85,000$93,000$108,000
Horizon Air$81,000$92,000$111,000
Mesa AirlinesCRJ900$67,000$76,000$93,000
Piedmont AirlinesERJ 145$76,000$83,000$96,000
PSA Airlines$85,000$94,000$108,000
Republic Airways$90,000$99,000$116,000
Skywest AirlinesCRJ200$75,000$84,000$103,000

Regional Airline First Officer Salaries

Few pilots remain first officers at regional airlines for very long. Most will become a captain at a regional airline within a few years and then from there, move to a major airline. This is why some pilot salaries aren’t listed for year 5 and beyond.

AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 8
Air WisconsinCRJ200$37,000$49,000$53,000
Endeavor AirCRJ200$52,000$66,000$68,000
Envoy AirCRJ700$51,000$57,000
Horizon Air$48,000$59,000$62,000
Mesa AirlinesCRJ900$36,000$39,000$43,000
Piedmont AirlinesERJ 145$50,000$56,000
PSA AirlinesCRJ$51,000$57,000$57,000
Republic Airways$46,000$55,000$58,000
Skywest AirlinesCRJ200$46,000$59,000$62,000

Current Airline Bonuses

A $10K bonus is provided by Endeavor Air after training completion.
Envoy Air, an American Airlines partner, offers qualifying applicants an incentive package worth more than $150k. All new pilots will receive a $15k signing bonus, those who become captains will receive a $30k bonus, American Airlines will receive a $70k flow bonus, and there will also be an additional $50k bonus paid at the flow that will be earned proportionally over the course of two years by accruing qualifying flight hours. Envoy also provides a $15k bonus for direct entrance captains, a $7.5k type rating boost, and a $10k bonus for near-captain entry.
In their pilot development program, Horizon Airlines offers private pilots a $12.5k stipend while they complete their training. Additionally, they offer a new hiring bonus of

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Commercial Airline Pilot Benefits

In addition to their compensation, pilots receive a lot of benefits. Particularly when the sector is robust and airlines are battling it out with one another to attract competent pilots to their carriers.

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Free Travel

The majority of airlines provide their pilots free passage on flights with available seats, including one for a friend or relative.

Many pilots take advantage of these unpaid excursions to travel the globe or pay frequent visits to their loved ones.

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Healthcare and Insurance

To remain competitive with the other airlines, most companies have very attractive healthcare and life insurance benefits for their pilots.


While bonuses are not guaranteed in any business, in the good times airlines will offer sign-on bonuses to be competitive in hiring.

Others offer yearly profit sharing based on the airline’s income as well as other contractual agreed-upon amounts.

How Long Can an Airline Pilot Work?

The FAA mandates that airline transport pilots in the US retire at age 65. You can still fly after the age of 65, it only means you can’t hold an ATP. While some pilots do retire at age 65, others work as charter pilots, flight teachers, or in any of the various commercial pilot positions listed below.

Do Airline Pilots Belong to Unions?

Most airline pilots belong to unions in the United States. These unions negotiate pilot salaries and other benefits.

There are a few major airline pilot unions including Air Line Pilots Association, the Allied Pilots Association, and Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.

Pilot Salaries for other Commercial Pilot Jobs

Flight Instructor

Many pilots will work at a flight school as an instructor as their method of gaining their FAA-required minimum hours, but some love it so much they choose to become a career flight instructor. A career instructor can expect a pilot salary anywhere from $40,000 to $75,000 annually.

Many instructors will go on to work as chief flight instructors for a flight school where their salary can go even higher.

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Cargo Carrier

The compensation for cargo pilots is perhaps the most competitive among commercial airlines.

The pay scale for cargo pilots is very comparable to that of the main airlines.

AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 8
Air Transport International767$147,000$234,000$255,000
Atlas Air767$92,000$160,000$172,000
FedEx Express767$276,000$310,000$326,000
Kalitta Air$154,000$244,000$266,000
Southern Air767$142,000$160,000$196,000
United Parcel Service$50,000$312,000$329,000

Cargo Airline Pilot First Officer Salaries

AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 8
Air Transport International767$83,000$151,000$181,000
Atlas Air767$87,000$108,000$137,000
FedEx Express767$81,000$193,000$226,000
Kalitta Air$116,000$162,000$193,000
Southern Air767$87,000$108,000$137,000
United Parcel Service$50,000$200,000$212,000

Charter Pilot

Private flights are offered by charter operators to both corporations and individuals. A charter pilots must be professional because they will interact with customers more directly than airline pilots do.

The average charter pilot income in the US earns about $75,000, which is more than other time-building vocations.

How Much Do Pilots Make – Conclusion

How much time a pilot can spend in the air affects how much money they make annually. As this article has shown, an airline pilot’s pay rises as they progress from First Officer to Captain and from a regional to a major carrier.

Your objective should be to advance to the position of captain with a large airline if you want to optimize your airline pilot salary.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a pilot earn?

In the first case, the salary may range from $73,100 to $88,000. In the second, captains make from $131,300 to $190,000. Bear in mind that the salary from the first officer to captain, in addition to years of experience, may even triple the pilot salary

Are pilots rich?

Major Airline Pilots Earn the Highest Salary in Regional Airlines versus Major Airlines. In the May 2020 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the range of salaries for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers from less than $80,920 a year to the highest 10 percent earning more than $208,000.

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