Hiring Mechanics - $65 an hour. How much is your pilot worth?

I went shopping the other night, and drove through an industrial park to get to the shops.

On the side of the road, I saw a sign that read "hiring mechanics - $65 an hour."

My first thought was, "well, $65 an hour is a pretty decent wage."  And then I starting thinking about Steve's hourly wage.

Honest to goodness, this sign lead me to think about Steve's wage in a way I never have before.


For simplicity sake, I am going to say that FOs make $100 a flight hour and CA make $200 a flight hour.  Again, this is solely for this example to keep things simple.  These numbers are somewhat in the ballpark, more or less.  If you want specifics, I am sure there are a ton of websites out there that list airline wages.

A flight from CLE to LAS costs a passenger about $400. 

A flight from CLE to LAS is about 4 hours.

A FO will be paid $400 for flying from CLE to LAS.

A CA will be paid $800 for flying from CLE to LAS.

In total, the pilots will be paid $1,200 for this flight. 

If a flight carries 100 people, and each person pays $400, that total is $40,000.00.  Not to mention additional revenue of cargo and extra fees from passengers like bags and food. 

With the numbers I just gave, only 3% of ticket prices, again just ticket prices, goes to the pilots salary.  I am very loose with these numbers, but you see my point.  Those two people up there, in total command of the aircraft, your safety and your survival, are only paid $400 and $800 for that 4 hours. 

And keep in mind, people, that this does not account for any hotel van time, any prep time, any layover time, pre-flight time, boarding time...deplaning time, and wrapping up time (I know, a very technical term, right? But, I am sure there are checklists to be done, maybe walkarounds again?).  This is simply from when the parking brake is down, to when the parking brake is up.

I had never thought about Steve's income broken down by a leg like this before.  I always thought more along the lines of what his W-2 read.  Steve deserves more than $400 for flying that flight!

When I had this enlightenment, and told this to Steve, he just kept repeating "yeah!"  Of course, he feels exactly the same, but with more passion.

I think people have the impression that pilots are rolling in the dough.  People may know of a CA that does international routes and drives a Porsche and has a huge house.  One may think this way since his W-2 is probably hefty...but, when you break this down to wage, by flight time, they really aren't making enough, if you ask me.

Having a wage of $100 an hour seems like a ton of money. Having a wage of $200 an hour seems like even more of a ton of money. But, only being paid $400 for a 4 hour flight, across thousands of miles, is not enough.  Think about that. 

Think about how just one passenger's ticket paid for the FOs time, and two passenger's tickets paid for the CAs time.

Hell, and this is for mainline pilots.  Regional pilots are paid even worse.  I don't think that CAs at a regional break 3 digits for their hourly wage for a decade, I bet. 

I will get off my soapbox...I just had to share with you the enlightenment that I had.  And with this enlightenment, I will be that much more supportive of Steve when it comes contract negotiation time!


  1. I can relate to this post....so much so that I made my own post about it....I hope you don't mind! :)


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