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.

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    $\begingroup$ 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
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec Good point! I guess you'd also have to factor in aircraft availability due to maintenance and checks? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveGremlin, I believe those averages are achievable including maintenance. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ Related: aviation.stackexchange.com/a/25631/679 $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


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:

Airline Pilots Aircraft Ratio
Emirates 4,300 258 16.7
Delta 14,600 881 16.6
United 12,491 763 16.4
Southwest 9,614 748 12.9
SkyWest 4,621 453 10.2
  • $\begingroup$ 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
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 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. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ @zymhan Also, pilots are only paid while they’re flying, so the labor cost per hour flown are roughly the same regardless of your ratio. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenS Thanks for the edit. Lovely table! $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 6:11
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenS that would depend greatly on the company. At least the ones I know of have a base salary plus extras for flight hours. None that I know of are pure zero hour zero pay -deals. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 17:52

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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Again from market research into the flight training industry, own work. From beginning 2020 just before the covid slump.

  • Single aisle passenger aeroplanes require between 3 and 5 crews per plane, so 3-5 FO's and 3-5 captains. Depending on average flight duration, airline growth, local legislation, worldwide job market. So every new additional single aisle aircraft requires an additional 3-5 type rated crews. If the new aeroplane replaces an older type, the existing crews can be type rated for the new type and no additional pilots need to be hired.
  • Dual aisle, longer range planes require at least double that, up to 12 crews/plane. For the longer flight duration of these aircraft there need to be multiple crews on board, and upon reaching the destination they cannot immediately fly the return flight, they need to rest.

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