How much money do commercial pilots make per year, and per hour? Is there significant non-monetary compensation, such as free hotels stays and food?

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    $\begingroup$ This is very variable depending on the time a pilot has been in with the company, the company itself, and maybe even the nation the airline is based in. $\endgroup$ – SMS von der Tann Jun 2 '16 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ Depends on how you define "a lot". $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jun 2 '16 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ This definitely needs to be narrowed down to be a good question. It depends on what country the airline is in, whether the pilots are flying regional or long haul flights and on what type of aircraft, and what type of employer they work for (passenger airline, cargo company, private charters, government), among other things. $\endgroup$ – fooot Jun 2 '16 at 20:31
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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't really want to fly with a pilot who's only in it for the money. $\endgroup$ – Greg Hewgill Jun 2 '16 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ Commercial pilot pay depends vastly on what type of work he or she is doing. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Jun 2 '16 at 22:09

I can only answer from a US standpoint as that is the jurisdiction I know best, elsewhere in the world things may be different.

The first thing you can check is this data from the Bureau Of Labor And Statistics according to their data

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

For Pilots the 2015 median pay was 102,520 USD per year

You should read over this article as well as it covers a wide variety of how pilots are paid and the such.

Here is some more data on salary as well. You should how ever note that for many articles the data is submitted by choice and may not accurately reflect the true pay scale.

Here is some discussion on the per hour pay but I should caution you to be weary of per hour statistics for pilots. In many cases these numbers are computed using flight hours which does not accurately reflect how much a pilot may work as there is more time involved in a flight than just what the hobbs meter records. Here in the US it is my impression most commercial (121) pilots are salaried.

My two flight instructors recently went to the regionals after completing their ATP hours from talking to them it is evident that starting pay is very low (under 30K a year).

One interesting (and often debated issue) is that the FAA requires pilots to retire at 65 (was previously 60). This in theory puts a cap on their earning potential as an airline pilot (however they can fly non 121 operations like a 135 charter afterwords).

As for perks, that depends on the airline (and may to some extent depend on seniority). Its common to get some comped tickets for family members and the such but its not what it once was. I have heard that many pilots can fly standby on their own (or in company) airlines for free. They may also be able to ride in the jump seat if there is one. This can be attractive for a young single pilot but is not very efficient for family travel.

Free hotels and things will depend on the route you are flying. If overnight stay is required they may put the pilot up (i.e. long haul routes) but you should not expect 5 Star Penthouses and bottomless lobster dinners. However there are plenty of short routes for which a pilot may end up back at their base at the end of their shift.

If you are looking for a decent overview of the pilots life I would advise picking up a copy of Cockpit Confidential it has a lot of the answer you may be looking for and is very to the point.

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  • $\begingroup$ Unless they had extensive military flight experience before turning to flight instruction, I don't think your flight instructors went directly to "the majors" after getting to ATP minimums, especially not directly from flight instructing. From that and the starting pay you mention, I think you are referring to that sector of the airline industry referred to as the "regional airlines". $\endgroup$ – J Walters Jun 2 '16 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ Yes you are correct, by majors I was implying they stopped flying the charters they were flying (local stuff in a King Air 200 mostly) ill edit to reflect. FWIW they ended up at Air Wisconsin and Piedmont $\endgroup$ – Dave Jun 3 '16 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ That's messed up that I make more than a new ATP piloting a truck. I sure hope they move up quickly $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jun 3 '16 at 0:30
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    $\begingroup$ @TomMcW It can still be worth it, despite the low pay :) Money is not everything. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Jun 3 '16 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ Money is not everything, true. But money buys everything...like your own plane...to fly anywhere you choose on your own schedule. My pilot life warning to young folks: flying professionally is great until you want to own stuff. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Jun 4 '16 at 7:21

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