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Every job in every industry has some "pressure", "stress", or "burdens" for that job. Being a PPL feels free, but I'm paying for flying. Working as a pilot, I get paid for flying. BUT, before I decide I want to join this industry, what are the burdens that an airline pilot has to face routinely? Does it vary if you're working for a small regional airline vs major international airlines?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Danny Beckett, SentryRaven, CGCampbell, yankeekilo, Pondlife Sep 9 '14 at 21:28

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ You forgot the word "poorly" in there somewhere. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell Sep 3 '14 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell yea? where? $\endgroup$ – kevin Sep 3 '14 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ I suppose @CGCampbell meant as in "poorly paid". I understood from other questions on this site that in North America wages are currently low especially in regional airlines. Situation differs a lot across the world so you can probably get good money in Middle East or Asia (if you can get at least 737 or A320 rating and are willing to move or live away). $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Sep 3 '14 at 20:01
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This is a very broad topic and is heavily opinion based.

Vast majority of commercial pilots do love flying and that's the reason they go through the abuse by airlines. All GA pilots also love flying but either cannot afford the abuse or don't have time for it, so they just pay to satisfy this hobby.

So to answer your question, some of the burdens are:

  • High costs of training
  • Waiting a long time (2 years or more on occasions) before getting hired by an airline
  • Very low salaries in the beginning (several years)
  • Losing seniority (very often) when you go to another carrier
  • Staying away from home a lot
  • Very unstable industry
  • Many pilots eventually get bored and frustrated (regardless of initial enthusiasm)

Having said that, there are many many great benefits, too. The bottom line is that people only get into this career if they love it deeply.

The question you have to ask yourself is: Am I willing to undergo this trouble for my passion?


P.S.: The above holds true for the airlines and pilots in the US.

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe it should be mentioned this is specific to North America. Middle East and Asia have shortage of pilots and therefore offer better wages and conditions. I heard 2nd-hand about pilots from Europe going to Middle East or Asia for much better money and in Europe the wages are a lot better than US. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Sep 3 '14 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec True. I looked at FO monthly benefits for Etihad. US Airlines also pay the same but only annually. $\endgroup$ – Farhan Sep 3 '14 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Two more downside items: the possibility of losing your career because of medical problems and, if flying international routes, the stress of significant time zone changes. $\endgroup$ – Terry Sep 4 '14 at 7:24
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    $\begingroup$ I know a number of current and former airline pilots and I would add "Stress on relationships". Some of my airline pilot friends have been through multiple divorces as their spouses have drifted away and found other interests. No doubt this is partially a result of the "time away from home" item, but needs to be mentioned since it can have a direct effect on one's current and future earnings, ability to retire, retirement lifestyle, etc. $\endgroup$ – JerryKur Sep 4 '14 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ I always thought that the high divorce rate was due to the "fooling around with the flight attendants" problem. Now that the average age of flight attendants has skyrocketed, maybe that is no longer an issue. $\endgroup$ – RoboKaren Sep 7 '14 at 3:50

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