Are Major Airline pilots overpaid?

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n77j

Well-Known Member
I am sure most of may disagree but i feel that Major airline pilots here in the U.S. are overpaid. It is insane to see a senior pilot at a major airline make over $200/hour for the amount of work they do-just taxing a plane. It is sad to see that dispatchers, operation agents, rampers don't even make 10 percent of that of an airline pilot. And these are the people that work their ass of to get the plane off the gound on time! I am not saying rampers or dispatchers should make $200 but- we should be considered as human-beings and make some competive wages!
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
I spent 5 years in college, spent easily over $100,000 in training and tuition (not including room and board). Made $1,100 in 1993, $4,100 in year 1994, $6,800 in year 1995, $11,490 in 1996, $15,000 in 1997, $29,000 in 1998, $54,000 in 1999, $92,000 in 2000, $106,000 in 2001 and I make around $115,000 now in my fifth year at a major. I'm not trying to brag, it's public information.

When my non-flying buddies were out boozing, I was studying for a checkride. When my non-flying buddies were making $80,000 per year in the 'real world', I was digging in my car's ash tray for enough money for a bean burrito and a free water at Taco Bell. When my non-flying buddies took off on European vacations, I'd go down to the library which offered free internet access so I can look at their emailed pictures.

When my non-flying pals were buying high end stereos for their entertainment rooms, I was too proud to admit to my parents that I couldn't afford to replace a broken headset and I figured that a soldering iron and a speaker that I salvaged from an old 13" black and white television would be far as the old CFI budget would stretch.

When my buddies were buying houses, getting married and starting families, I was sitting up in Marquette, MI in December on reserve with 12 other guys in what seemed to be a former crack house that was turned into an airline pilot crash pad.

Then, I got lucky and found a rent-controlled, government housing project in Milwaukee with welfare moms and senior citizens on social security and still had to fudge my income in order to qualify for the minimum income level to qualify for government housing.

Know what it's like to buy a loaf of bread, a pack of store brand bologna and banana's to cover two meals per day for a week?

I continue miss most major holidays, haven't been to a birthday party since college, have no idea if I can make holidays, xmas, thanksgiving or even my own wedding until about a month before.

I also wake up often at 4am eastern time regularly, even though my "body clock" says it's 1am back at home and work a full day. Live in the pacific time zone, but your hotel pick-up is at 4:30am in Boston? Too bad, get up, shower/shave, throw on the uniform and get ready for a early morning dose of northeast corridor flying.

I take a potentially career ending flight physical twice per year and do a potentially career-ending flight check annually.

I get randomly drug tested, sniff tested by security agents, went thru 5 complete FBI background checks in six years. I also get wanded and my bags dug through about 15 to 18 times per month. Oh, and I also have to be very vigilant during layovers for terrorists trying to break into my room and steal my ID and uniform as has happened recently to other flight crew.

I'm also responsible for (sometimes) more than 700 people per day (142 at a time), I'm away from home about 200 hours per month and only paid for about 70.

I'm also responsible for knowing about 60 lbs (I weighed it when I was bored) of manuals, procedures, techniques, regulations and such. If I screw one up bad enough, I lose my job, home and chances of getting hired by another airline is zero.

And the important part -- I'm trained and paid to take a half-broken MD-88 into JFK during a driving snow storm with 1800RVR (captain does everything below that) and a nasty crosswind, do the approach precisely, be able to anticipate, react and recover from a sudden random catastrophic event, land the aircraft in the touchdown zone with a smooth landing, smile and cheefully exclaim "so long sir!" as the passengers deplane, load up and do it all over again.

Oh, and occasionally argue with dispatchers, mechanics, rampers and gate agents about safety of flight issues and be willing to say, 'if it's between flying this unsafe aircraft and losing my job, here's my resignation'.

Yeah, way overpaid I guess...

BTW, the whole thing about the plane flying itself from takeoff to touchdown is pure urban legend. And some MS riverboat captains make more than senior 777 captains. Geez, one of my neighbors is an auto mechanic living in a $450,000 house with an at-home wife.
 

av8sean

New Member
Unfortunately though, airline labor costs are now 56% of all costs, compared to 44% ten years ago.

-Sean
 

VJPilot

New Member
</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
And these are the people that work their ass of to get the plane off the gound on time! I am not saying rampers or dispatchers should make $200 but- we should be considered as human-beings and make some competive wages

[/ QUOTE ]
Yeah I agree rampers and agents was well as others should be making some competitive wages. But it should not be at the expense of the airline pilots, like Doug pointed out pilots really work their butts off too.
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
Did the statistics also note a 400% annual upper-level management cost (they're labor too!) and how a "certain" airline is spending $5,000,000 yearly to a former CEO that was fired for lack of performance that does nothing?

Sorry guys, just a sore spot -- I just find it hard to believe that the general public always complains how pilots are overpaid, but they'll go out and spend $400 for a family of four to purchase NBA tickets, food and parking to watch a team of players with some that make in 7 days what it takes my wife and I to earn in a year combined.
 

I_Money

Moderator
I think Doug hit the nail on the head, but a few more points:

The majority of major airline pilots are not earning $250,000 per year, but more in the mid $100,00's. Also the majority of professional pilots are earning more around $50,000.

If you look at any most profession that travels as much as pilots, they will probably be making almost twice as much.

Most airline pilots have struggled through either a strike or a lay off once in their career.

As far as rampers, I think they are well paid for what they do, I do not think the are entitled to a professional salary. Mechanics and dispatchers is another can worms, which one could debate on for years.

About CEO's although they get paid money most of us only dream about, however these salaies are compeitive rates for organization of this size. If UAL offered their new CEO $250,000 they would not get the experience they require to run such a large shop!
 

tonyw

Well-Known Member
Let's keep a few things in mind here. It takes two to tango. Airline pilots are neither over nor underpaid. Why? Because airline management has to agree to the contract. If the cost is too high, then they should not agree to it.

I also read an article in the Wall Street Journal recently about the dock workers that are locked out. Do you know what their average income is? $130K a year. And that's for a job which doesn't require any of the training that's required to be not just a pilot for a major, but just an instructor scraping by on $12K a year!

Finally, Alex Rodriguez makes more in one game than the most senior 744 captain makes in a year. And he doesn't have hundreds of people's lives in his hands.
 

giladal

Well-Known Member
I have another small thing to add,
I dont know if in Delta its the same but in ELAL the captain was incharge of the crew in the layovers.
Meaning if someone is sick, tough for the captain, he will need to get the medical attention and if needed to talk to the crew schedulers to fly a reserve flight attendant to replace him/her.

A Captain is actually the head supervisor in the plane.
So his job is not only all you said up there, but also he is the supervisor of the flight attendants.
I think its not overpaid at all.
Especially with all you have to go through to get to that position, plus not mentioning the odds to get hired after Sept. 11th..
 

zsolez

New Member
I think the trend is going to be (it is already) that eventually major pilots will end up making less in the long run, and the "lower end" (sorry for the expression), or career beginner pilots will come up somewhat, thus we will end up with a rather strong middle and few extremities as opposed to a very wide pay range, starting from a pathetic low value, climbing relatively steeply. A logical consequence of this would be that the whole glamour of being a major airline pilot would slowly wear off since the public would not see those few captains making 200s working 3 days a week as the average major pilot. Therefore the supply of pilots would somewhat decrease, and finally the cost of "getting into" the game would also decline as a result.

Bad or not? I guess not if I look at the big picture. You would start making more at the beginning and would not make the 200s at the very end, but I guess the average would not be that much below compared to the current average. Certainly those who are already over the hard part, like Doug… well those would have it relatively rough again as they have already made their investment but they would not end up enjoying the future as much as they tough they would.

I personally wish that I am wrong, and everything will stay as is, except this hiring low. I am the person who likes to do the crap work first (and btw flying is not a crap work, what is crap is the initial pay) if I see smooth sailing at the end. But seriously I can't imagine that being an airline pilot will be such a glamorous job for 100s of years... I just can't see that. And with those Jet Blues, and Southwests, and less domestic wide body flights I thinks the process is already well on its way.
 

ScorpionStinger

Well-Known Member
I think Doug and Iain hit the bullseye with there statement on this thread... i agree with them 110 %. Nicely written Fellas..
 

Kingairer

'Tiger Team' Member
Whenever you guys begin to fly professionally u'll understand a bit more. Being away from family is tougher then you think. Hopefully your spouse will be supportive, but you can see were the "your leaving me here with all this to take care of" attitude could crop up. Not being able to commit to attend anything is also a problem. Like doug was saying you never know where ya gonna be. And if your in a Charter or flight dept that can be even worse, you may not knowthe day before.
 

DE727UPS

Well-Known Member
Mike,

How old are you? What do you do for a living?

The world is an expensive place.... Pilot pay might seem like a lot...when I was young I would have agreed with you. I'm not young anymore and now that I understand what the job is all about....I can tell you that pilots are not overpaid when everything is taken into consideration. Everything from the length of the duty day and time away from home, to compensation levels for other professionals. Do you realize I'm away from home in the service of my company 300 hours a month? How many hours a month does the average joe work? It's easy to sit back and be critical if your not in the profession....let us know if you feel the same way when you're 40.
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
I've heard this question my just about my entire life from just about everyone whom I meet - my father is a retired airline pilot.

It makes me so mad that the general public is so ignorant of the training, recurrent training, risks, dangers (let's face it flying is safe but sitting behind a desk is far safer) and sacrifices (see Doug's post regarding training, time building and family life) involved with flying. And then, they have the pure disregard for the facts and arrogance to ask a question like "are pilots overpaid?" It simply shows how ignorant they truly are.

They hear about, or see, one captain with 35 years in, flying 747s making $350,000+ a year (most likely for only one or two years tops) and assume all pilots make that. On top of it the public assumes all they do "is taxi the airplane around because it flies itself" and draw the conclusion that, obviously, pilots are over paid.

Nevermind that the moment a pilot steps on board an aircraft he or she is now completely responsible for its safety, the safety of the crew, the 100+ passengers on board and the small city of people the aircraft would wipeout if it came down in the wrong place. Nevermind that, ultimately, the pilot(s) must determine the safest route to the desitnation, handle inflight emergencies, both mechanical and medical, deal with the FAA, know and understand the ATC system and the list goes on and on.

There are very, very few other professions where those who practice it deal with so much oversight, recurrent training and testing and face the risk of losing the privledge to continue that profession as the result of one mistake. Doctors don't even have to put up as much crap as a pilot does - ok maybe an E.R. Doctor comes close but very few doctors stay in that position for 30 years.

But to the same person that asks "are pilots overpaid" it's perfectly acceptable for a basketball player or baseball player to bring in 20 million over the course of a few years. It's ok that lawyers can bill $900/hr to do a job that is, Constitutionally speaking, supposed to be within the bounds of being accomplished by a lay person. It's ok that CEOs rape corporations, so long as stock/shareholder value is increased for the sell-off while in the process ruining the lives of thousands of employees.

But I suppose like the saying goes; there are no stupid questions, just stupid people.
 

A300Capt

Freight Dawg
</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
I am sure most of may disagree but i feel that Major airline pilots here in the U.S. are overpaid. It is insane to see a senior pilot at a major airline make over $200/hour for the amount of work they do-just taxing a plane.

[/ QUOTE ]

Just about every aviation website has someone making the same tired statement about all the overpaid airline pilots. You also have a very simplistic view about what we actually do, what our job entails, and the amount of training and experience required to reach and maintain this level.

Who could blame you though? After all, the news media would have you believe we're all just a bunch of partying alcoholics and potential terrorist who only work 70 hrs a month and can't be trusted with a pair of nail clippers.

Every snot nose Microsoft flight simmer with 20hrs of computer desktop time under his belt now actually believes they could easily land a crippled jetliner if the pilot passes out. $200 an hour? Heck, they'd do it for free and make it look easy, right?!?

I won't bore you with all the details of what it actually takes to achieve or maintain a career as an airline pilot since Doug pretty much summed it up. I suspect, however, that you're probably one of those "other" employees you speak of with a bad case of pilot envy. If this is the case, I suggest you start working on your ratings as the airlines will eventually begin hiring again! I think if you were to walk a mile in our shoes though, you'd think much differently!

Quite frankly though, I personally don't care if you, or anyone else, thinks I'm overpaid. I make the going market rate for my job discription and I don't feel a need to justify it to anyone.
Life's not always fair. You don't always get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate for!
 

n77j

Well-Known Member
I knew everyone was going to blast me but i had to vent myself. My point is that dispatchers, operation agents, mechanics and others who work hard should also be paid competitive wages! I work closely with the dispatchers as an operation agent for Delta. As for airline pilots spending most of the holidays and birthdays away from home- well i can understand that but it does not justify the pay. Isn't that what part of the job is -travelling? A Lufthansa B747 senior pilot makes U.S. $160,000 max- compared to United or American $250,000-270,000 a year. As for airline excutives i am not even going to go there.
 

Eagle

New Member
</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
Isn't that what part of the job is -traveling?

[/ QUOTE ]

No traveling is not "part of the job" any more than it is for a cab driver, or sewing is for a doctor, or reading for a writer, or listing for a musician, or being spit on as a prison guard, etc.. the fact that you are in different places doesn't make it "travel". you are not being paid to travel yo uare being paid to safely move the cargo from a to b.

I was talking to a guy who is a FO for one of the night cargo companies. (i don&amp;#8217;t recall where we were, east pennslytuckey I think) anyway, he was hauling mail in a SAAB. his run from city X to City Y was a pretty good gig, but travel. yeah right. that's livin''

But I forget your job ad a ramp agent involved communications so you should be paid as much as what.. a TV news Anchor? hey communications it is all part of the job.
 
There are A LOT of underpaid folks out there--airline ground crews (the pay isn't that bad, though), teachers, nurses, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, the list goes on and on. A ramper at Delta told me that he makes $9.56/hr; a lead paramedic in Fort Worth, TX makes $7.08/hr and has more responsibility, stress, risk, works longer hours, and has more job-related education than the typical ramper. Just an example of how backwards the world is. The difference as I see it, is the fact that pilots are so organized, that they have the ability to get the lucrative contracts that they do. And good for them--more power to them. Even the airlines that don't have pilots' unions have to offer similar benifits to attract qualified candidates. There are a lot of people out there with as much or more education as pilots, with more dangerous jobs, and I'll even say as much or more responsibility, that get paid fractions of the average f/o's (major) salary. But, the pilots have gotten what they wanted--like I said, good for them. One of the few labor groups that actually gets some semblance of what they believe they're worth.
 

giladal

Well-Known Member
NJ,
Inorder to become a ramp agent, did you spend about $100,000?
Did you study day and night inorder to pass a test?
Do they test you constantly on your knowledge as a ramp agent?

Think about what your saying before you say it.
I mean., geee ramp agent, even someone with no education can handle that job, and be profesional in ( and im exaturating) 1 month!
 
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