Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Rich Pilot, Poor Pilot
Thanks to 9/11 and all the ensuing bankruptcies there are very few "rich" pilots save for some southwest guys who got good stock options back in the day. Contrary to popular belief airline pilots are not swimming in money and lighting hundred dollar bills in the cockpit while your stuck in the back.
I know every single one of you who isn't in the aviation industry will google this as soon as you read this so let me help you Now the next thing your going to do is say the average is $98,000, that seems pretty good, and it is pretty good. I for one would be ecstatic if dh made that a year. However after 14 years as an airline pilot that's not what he's making, not even close. Remember that $98,000 is the average which means that half make more and half make less.
I'm sure at this point if you're not in aviation you're thinking to yourself so get another job that pays better, after all dh has been flying for 14 years he should be able to "move up the ladder" so to speak. I certainly wish this was true. In fact dh has had 3 different airline jobs, but you see at the airlines unlike most other jobs your past experience doesn't count for jack shit, it only helps you to get an interview. Since dh has flown the 757 you would think that maybe he could go to United/Delta/FedEx who all fly 757 and say "I have X number of hours flying this plane and I was an instructor on it. I also have my masters in Aviation Safety, I am worth X number of dollars so that's what you will pay me." However it doesn't work like that, the experience gets you the interview and maybe the job but that's where your useful experience ends. If you are hired you are placed in seniority order from date of hire, below everyone already hired, no matter if you have experience or not. Along with this every airline you start with places you on first year pay regardless of experience. So the philosophy of "moving up the ladder" doesn't work so well in the airline world.
Now you might be ok with your pilot making almost $100,000 a year which is fine but then think about getting on a flight where the pilot makes $15,000 for the year, still feel as comfortable? True all pilots have the same standard FAA training BUT I bet you that guy making $15,000 is more stressed. At some point in everyone's life (well most everyone) you've had a crappy McDonald's type job that paid this, but it was probably when you were in high school, and maybe college. Not when you are 40 and trying to figure out how to pay a mortgage and feed your family. So you do what almost all pilots do (besides load up on credit card debt), you go cheap whenever you can ie: load up on free breakfast from the hotel. Being the poor pilot you are you will stash away some of your breakfast and eat it for the rest of the day, you can't afford to buy anything else if you are only taking home $15,000 a year. I know that dh has many times only eaten yogurt and a can of cold ravioli all day (or ramen) in order to cut costs.
Only a small percentage of your plane ticket actually goes to paying for the pilot. While this chart is about 7 years old the numbers have not changed much. So on average you are paying $3.72 per hour of your flight toward pilot pay. Say you are on a two hour flight only $7.44 of your ticket goes to pay your pilot. Doesn't seem like a lot now does it? The rest goes toward; fuel, maintenance, insurance, and of course greedy airline CEO's.
Real poor pilot examples; dh and two other new hires at his airline compare W-2's. One made $35,400, one made $25,300 and dh made almost exactly $26,000. That is total, not take home. Dh took home almost exactly $10,000 for the year. For flying an airbus full of people, with his 14 years of experience and his masters degree. This number isn't sad, its pathetic. This is why I get so upset when people say pilots are rich, yes some are well off, but some are barely scarping by. Think about that next time you get on a plane.