Friday, June 10, 2011

Myth: Pilots All Make A Lot of Money

I honestly didn't ever really think about the pilots when I was traveling before last year. I never gave it much thought if they were making much money or being treated well by their employers. As long as my flight was smooth and on time (ha!), I was happy. So naive!

I'll be the wife of a regional pilot in 50 days and while I'm still somewhat naive to many things, I've learned a lot about the airline industry in the past year. Probably more than I want to know but I have so much respect for ALL airline employees now.

There is a common misconception that pilots all make a lot of money (I recently read an article that claimed that the AVERAGE salary of pilots is over 6-figures). It's true that some of the major airlines pay their senior captains pretty well and yes, some of those captains are making six-figures. They may also have the seniority so that they can pick their flights and some even come home every night.

Our household is not operating with a 6-figure income. The Pilot is a first officer at a regional airline. That means he's second in command for a "small" airline. Captains on regional airlines aren't making much either but I'm not sure what the pay difference is between CA and FO.

I follow another pilot wife's blog and she recently made a post about this same subject. She is very general but you get the picture. Check it out here.

And to explain it even more....The Pilot leaves soon on a one day trip. Leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon on the same day. Which sounds great to me. I love when he comes home; except then he explained how crappy the schedule is for the day. His schedule has him on duty(in uniform and "working") seven hours. When he accounts for how his time will be spent during those seven hours doing paperwork, waiting in airports (pilots have the same layovers that the rest of us do), preparing the plane for flight, and actually flying the plane, he's going to make about $13 an hour(dividing the pay he'll make for flying the plane by the number of hours he's on duty). I've blogged about it before but pilots and flight attendants at his airline and many others only get paid when they are on the plane and the door is closed. When he's inspecting that plane to make sure it is safe to fly, he's NOT getting paid. When he's sitting in an airport waiting for his plane to arrive, he's NOT getting paid. When he's sitting on the airplane waiting for the passengers to find their seats and figure out where to shove their four carry-on bags, he's NOT getting paid. Now doesn't that sound like a glamorous lifestyle??

He could probably go work at the local hardware store and make $13 an hour. But he doesn't because he has a passion for flying. And that is what I admire about him. He makes a lot of sacrifices so that he can fly. There are some days it probably doesn't feel worth it to him. But if you see him after he's been home for 4-5 days, he's ready to get his head back in the clouds.

I won't lie, I often think about how we are going to make it work if we decide to have kids. Obviously lots of pilots have families and they have all found a way so I know it can be done. I wonder what effect it will have on him to be away from our family and on these hypothetical children to have a dad that isn't home every day. What I do know is that these hypothetical kids will see their dad in a career that he is passionate about. And that's a pretty good example to set, don't you think?

So The Pilot may never make six figures but he's seniority will improve, the trips will get better, the pay might even get better someday but we aren't holding our breath. He may even change his mind some day and decide he'd rather work at a hardware store. Either way, I've got his back. I wasn't looking for a sugar daddy anyways. ;) I was just looking for a nice guy that would laugh with me at traffic lights and to follow me around and take pictures while I the a pink tutu.


  1. There is alot to be said for being passionate about something and getting to do it every day!! I like my job, but I'm definitely not passionate about it, it's just a job. It's awesome that he gets to do something he loves so much.

  2. Yup, it's crazy how little a lot of pilots make. Most people don't understand that...

  3. Thats scary, I think a pilot should get paid while he is checking to make sure the plane is safe to fly! Thats his/her job, and aren't you supposed to get PAID to do your job?