Sadly, salary is the answer to that question. John Goglia over at Forbes shines a light on the subject once again and poses an interesting question… is the flying public willing to pay more for a ticket to support a higher living wage for regional pilots?

But when we talk about living wages, remember, too, the airline you are likely to be flying is a regional airline – and the pilot may well be an entry level one. Regional pilots are unlikely to have a union and unlikely to be walking out on their jobs to join a picket line, especially if they ever dream of making it to Captain or get hired at one of the major airlines. But once we’re talking about how much more a hamburger would cost to give workers a living wage, we should consider how much more would an airline ticket cost if we paid regional pilots a living wage.

So, just how low are the annual starting salaries at the regionals? Here’s a graphic depiction inclusive of the legacy regionals that no longer exist…

Commenter Aviation Law notes that – When the system allows the lowest bidders to bottom feed for employees, we find out the hard way where unrestrained free markets end up – in a smoking hole outside Buffalo. Regarding the assertion that regional pilots should live where they are based, the commentator ignores the fact that regional airline contracts are a moving target, going wherever the “low bid of the day” takes the outsourced contract. A pilot making $16,000 per year couldn’t possibly guess where they might be based six months from now, much less have the time off to find an affordable apartment. There is a necessary place in the market for regulation, and the regional airline model is simply a model that tries to duck the system for the sake of cheap tickets.

Related Post – The Unsurprising & Scary Confessions of a Regional Jet Pilot…sleeping in trailers at the airport

Salary data courtesy XB70Valyrie

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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Chase July 31, 2013 - 11:49 am

The article is very one-sided. The current pay-system for pilots is caused by mainline pilots themselves. They see regional pilots as ‘taking away their flying.’ Yet, those same mainline pilots are paid very well in comparison, and gladly sell their souls to the lowest bidder in order to keep their inflated salaries (by comparison). That’s right, the pay disparity between a regional pilot and mainline pilot is striking, and there’s no way mainline pilots or the Unions protecting them will ever let there be more equality in the system. I agree regional pilots need to be paid more, and the brunt should not come from customers, but from mainline pilots themselves. Have a play with the pay calculators on to see what I’m talking about.

PSL July 31, 2013 - 3:13 pm

Ever since that Buffalo crash I have made it a point to avoid regional jets. That’s one reason why I’m a big Southwest fan.

Wandering Aramean July 31, 2013 - 4:45 pm

Which regional airline pilots are non-union? A quick check of facts (,_International)
suggests that the truth is not particularly clear in that version of the story.

Kris July 31, 2013 - 6:02 pm

More people have died in crashes on mainline carriers than regional carriers in the US since 9/11, so that whole Buffalo crash logic really makes no sense to me. Not to mention the hundreds of lives lost to pilot error crashes on other major international airlines. Better pay does not mean better safety.

Seanthepilot August 1, 2013 - 9:36 pm

Airline pilots for the major carriers are overpaid.
Entry level pilots are underpaid.

And it’s not related to the price of tickets. If we paid more for out tickets (and some markets already do), the airlines would still underpay.

Why? Because they can.

The same could be said for housekeeping staff or waiters at a 5 star hotel in a foreign country. Consumers pay 5 star rates, but employers have no intention to raise the pay of their workforce.

Unusually low salaries cannot be related to the consumer. Management expense combined at all levels usually is the juicy fat that can be trimmed, whereas operating expenses have already been squeezed to capacity.

I am sorry to be so blunt. But, it is the pilots responsibility, collectively, to not accept a job that pays substantially less than it deserves.

In the 90s when I did my flight training, the joke was:

“What is the most commonly uttered phrase from a commercial pilot’s mouth?
Can I help someone here, please!”


“What’s the most hazardous part of flying for a living?
Starving to death!”

20 years later, and its still true.
Yes, I trained as a commercial pilot. And still have the license, current. But, I was never willing to work for peanuts. Don’t regret it either.

I see major airline pilots as a very arrogant and selfish segment of the population. If they really had integrity, they’d force improvements at the bottom instead of asking for more, more, and more.

NYBanker September 4, 2013 - 6:04 pm

There are no excess profits in airlines. Heck, there are few profits at all, let alone excess. If there are no excess profits, then the only ways to pay staff more are higher prices or increased staff productivity/efficiency.

Customers drive corporate behavior with their buying actions. If US customers were willing to pay more for premium air travel, first class on American would be more like Emirates.

How have customers trained airlines to act? Look at the degradation of domestic coach service. Many customers sort by fare and simply pick the lowest. Customers pass on modest creature comforts in exchange for saving a dollar. This is how the average consumer has taught airlines to behave.

Until RJs start falling out the sky regularly, any appeal regarding higher pilot salaries will fall on deaf ears of customers…they cannot hear because they are busy focusing on finding lower fares.

Until pax start selecting flights by employee work conditions and not by price (ha!), perhaps unions could work with airlines to relax work rules to allow staff to work more efficiently (ha again!).

Suggestions that high paid senior pilots should seek to give up wages and have those forfeited wages re-allocated to lower paid junior pilots reflect some sort of unfortunate combination of naïveté and socialism. Those who feel pilots should forfeit wages might consider a one-way ticket to SGN.


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