I guess this would depend if the airplane is narrow body or wide body because wide body airplanes make longer trips. Another way to ask this question is what is the ratio of airplanes and pilots in an airline company for wide body and narrow body passenger jets respectively.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Pilot is limited, by regulation, to 100 flight hours per month and 1000 flight hours per year, which means average only around 2.7 hours per day. An aircraft may fly maybe 8 (on short routes, so lot of loading and unloading) to over 12 (on long routes) hours a day. And you need two pilots per aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Dec 24 '18 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec Good point! I guess you'd also have to factor in aircraft availability due to maintenance and checks? $\endgroup$ Dec 24 '18 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveGremlin, I believe those averages are achievable including maintenance. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Dec 24 '18 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ Related: aviation.stackexchange.com/a/25631/679 $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Dec 24 '18 at 17:07

The answer depends greatly on the airline's operations, as the constraints are very different between long-haul and short-haul trips, whether relief crews are required, layover times, need and distribution of reserve pilots, and other factors: some pilots employed by an airline will be performing management duties, on leave, training, etc.

Assuming the numbers on airlinepilotcentral.com are accurate, we can look at some averages:

  • Emirates: 4,300 pilots, 258 aircraft: 16.7 pilots/aircraft
  • Delta: 14,600 pilots, 881 aircraft: 16.6 pilots/aircraft
  • United: 12,491 pilots, 763 aircraft: 16.4 pilots/aircraft
  • Southwest: 96,14 pilots, 748 aircraft: 12.9 pilots/aircraft
  • SkyWest (US regional airline): 4,621 pilots, 453 aircraft: 10.2 pilots/aircraft
  • $\begingroup$ So I guess this is a major factor in overall operational cost? Seeing as the lower cost (Southwest) and regional (SkyWest) carriers have a lower ratio. $\endgroup$
    – zymhan
    Jan 3 '19 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ @zymhan We have a past question on that, How much of an airline's costs are labor costs? I think much of the difference comes from the nature of their operations: Southwest and regional airlines tend to fly a lot of short hops with high aircraft utilization, and they never need augmented crews for long flights. $\endgroup$ Jan 3 '19 at 18:19

Well, that will depend on variable information sources.

For example: how many pilots are currently working in this company? How many aircraft? Do you have cargo or only passenger aircraft? Is it a single aisle or double aisle aircraft? What is the average flying time per pilot in that company? What is the average flying time for this airline per month?

So I think it is way easier if we took it on bigger scale (worldwide).

Accordingly to statista.com, currently active pilots around the globe are 290,000 pilots, and accordingly to telegraph.co.uk, there are from (23,600 - 39,000) aircraft around the globe. With easy math, you can have an answer of 7.4 pilots per aircraft. But again to answer your question we are going to need to assume some of the parameters are fixed or given! And yeah, I have been told that an A320 aircraft needs 10 pilots on average.


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