Wondering what a pilot salary is in 2021, this post has everything you need to know.
*****Updated Aug 21*****
How much do pilots earn in the UK?
Are you wondering how much pilots earn in the UK?
As of August 2021, travel restrictions are starting to be lifted but the vast majority of pilots in the UK remain on flexible working arrangements with their airlines – typically a combination of reduced pay and part-time work.
Pilot pay is still driven by a combination of:
As not to violate any confidentiality, the pilot salary figures used have come from freely available public sources – pilotjobsnetwork.com, aviationjobsearch.com & indeed.com. The figures shared are meant to be a guide.
The latest figures from indeed show that the average salary for a pilot based in London (last updated 9th August 2021) is £40,244. Pilot salaries are much lower as a result of the COVID pandemic but still around 27% higher than the average UK salary.
Pilot starting salary
Once you have completed your basic pilot training (in possession of a commercial pilot licence with a multi-engine instrument rating and multi-crew course certificate), you typically start as a junior first officer.
A junior first officer normally completest their line training with a given airline and will be classed as inexperienced until attaining a certain number of flight hours – typically 500 – 1500 – varies by airline.
A pilot’s starting salary will typically be in the region of £15,000 – £25,000 depending on the size of the operation.
The first contracts are likely to be seasonal (i.e. summers only) and may not be directly employed by the airline and instead work through an agency.
First officer pilot salary
Once you have around 1500 hours logged with a company, first officers normally receive a promotion to senior first officer rank. This is typically signified with three stripes on a pilots uniform.
The average salary for an experienced first officer is £44,511 according to PayScale.
Senior first officers are typically working learning and gaining experience as they work towards becoming a captain.
According to PayScale, the average senior first officer at British Airways in the United Kingdom is £58,204.
Captain pilot salary
Once first officers get more experience they are usually eligible to apply to become captains and complete their command upgrade process.
Experience required varies by airline, but for a short-haul operation (A320, B737) this may be after around 5 years experience when the pilot has 3-4000 hours experience.
To become a captain in long haul flying (B777, A350 etc), it may take as much as 15+ years flying and requires over 10,000 hours of experience. Most long haul promotions to captain are seniority driven.
The average salary for a captain in the united kingdom is £102,638 according to PayScale.
It is worth noting that larger airlines may pay captains more. For example, PayScale suggests that the average airline captain salary at British Airways in United Kingdom is £150,000.
If you wish to know more about how pilots are paid, read on below.
Pilot Salary – where to get the info
COVID 19 has, to be honest, decimated near enough every pilot salary in the world! Where government payroll support has not been available pilots are on unpaid leave.
This pandemic has certainly taken the ‘glamour’ out of being a pilot if there ever was such a thing! Through a combination of furlough, part-time working (to save jobs), and pay cuts, many pilots lucky enough to remain in employment have to supplement their income by other means.
When I was thinking about progressing my professional pilot training (commercial pilot licence) etc and potentially making the jump from a secure(ish) role in the oil and gas industry as an engineer -first and foremost was how much could I potentially earn as a pilot and would I earn enough to maintain a reasonable standard of living?
I used pilotjobsnetwork.com for my research during pilot training too and found the information there useful.
How much do pilots earn?
Truthfully pilot salaries will vary extremely widely depending on experience, fleet and company and geographic location.
Unfortunately, as a result of the pandemic, low hour pilots starting may find that their first job and salary will, in all likelihood, barely pay enough to live on and (let alone repay the cost of pilot training).
Contracts will vary, but unfortunately, due to all the financial stress in aviation, there are more pay to fly schemes popping up and zero-hour earn as you fly contracts.
Some companies still offer permanent contacts with a basic salary.
What components make up a pilot salary?
I came from an engineering background and figuring out my salary as a full-time engineering employee was very easy. There was normally one line for my basic salary and another line for the deductions.
The flying world brought many new payment amounts and entries!
Pilot salary components
- Duty Pay – an hourly rate paid for when you are on duty. Not all airlines have it, but some do.
- Flight Pay – This is an hourly amount paid to the pilot from when the aircraft’s brakes are released at push back to when the brakes are put on when back on the stand at the destination
- Sector Pay – Some airlines pay a fixed amount for each leg flown. This is normally factored to include leg duration, leg distance and who performs the take-off and landing.
- Allowances – rather than have a complex expense system where pilots have to claim expenses etc.; some airlines offer allowances for items such as food, uniform, mobile phone, parking etc. This is dependant on the airline.
- Basic salary – Depending on the contract, there may be a basic salary element too.
Type rating cost impact on pilot salary
The other factor that comes into play, particularly for new pilots, is the type rating cost. Although a newly qualified pilot has a commercial pilot licence, they still need to complete what type rating – a rating to fly the specific type of aircraft operated by the company.
Most new enterants will now have to pay for their own type ratings and they can cost anywhere from £15k to £30k. Depending on the company there may be a possibility to offset some of this cost againt your initial salary for the first few years.
You may find that for the first 3-5 years in employment, you could earn between 5-10k less per year to offset the cost of the type rating if it is not paid upfront. If the company requires the type rating to be paid for upfront, then you can expect the earnings to be slightly higher.
COVID 19 Impact on pilot salaries
The other impact that COVID 19 has had is that the many pilots have been furloughed or are now on part-time work or have taken pay cuts. Where no government payroll support exists, pilots have been put on unpaid leave causing a lot of hardship to the flying community.
If using the figures from pilotjobsnetwork.com and they have not been corrected recently, then straight away, it would be sensible to deduct all the figures advertised there by 20% to reflect the average pay cut pilots have taken.
The other item to take into consideration is that most airline pilots fortunate to still be in employment will be working on a part time basis. This may be through flexible furlough or an agreement that means pilot are working on a 50%-75% basis whilst activity levels are down.
It would be prudent to adjust the figures quoted on pilot job networks by between 50-75% (on top of the 20%) to account for part time working.
Pilot average salary
Industry estimates for the average commercial pilot salary used to be from £25,000 – £170,000 depending on experience, size of the company, and aircraft flow size. Post COVID, the average salary is probably now closer to £17,000 – £140,000.
You can also expect some part-time working and salary to be pro-rata for the amount of work i.e. 75% contract based on doing most of your work during the summer and then off for the winter.
From the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), the average current rate of basic salary could be:
- Flying instructor – £1,100 per month or £15- £25 per flying hour
- Turbo Prop – £17,000 – £35,000
- Small Business Jet – £17,000 – £35,000
- Short Haul – £35,000 – £40,000
- Long Haul – £49,000 – £55,000 per year.
I would say realistically as a result of COVID 19, you can immediately reduce each of the figure quoted above by at least 20% if not more for example if working part time.
What would the salary look like then including all the allowances?
Average pilot salary: £58,000
Average salary for captain: £65,200
Average salary for senior first officer: £57,900
Average salary for first officer: £46,700
I have used the figures from Pilotjobsnetwork.com and would say these salaries are based on a full-time contract which is unlikely to happen at the present times.
Assuming a 75% contract as a result of reduced flying due to covid 19, then the average pilot salaries are probably closer to:
Average salary for captain (75% contract): £65,200
Average salary for senior first officer (75% contract): £57,800
Average salary for first officer (75% contract): £35,025
On a full time basis in normal times (outside of COVID 19), salaries can look something like the below:
(Figures from aviationjobsearch.com)
Small & medium twin-engine turboprop aircraft:
For example: CityJet & Eastern Airways
First Officer: £22,000 – £40,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £3,000 flight duty pay)
Captain: £50,000 – £70,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £3,000 flight duty pay)
Executive Jet aircraft:
For example: NetJets, TAG Aviation, Ocean Sky
First Officer: £28,000 – £50,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £6,000 flight duty pay)
Captain: £50,000 – £95,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £7,000 flight duty pay)
Small & Medium – Short Haul Jet aircraft:
For example Airbus 319 / 320 / 321, Boeing 737, 757 and Embraer 190/195. Examples of airlines include Air Southwest, British Airways Short Haul, CityJet, easyJet, Fly Dubai, Jet2, and Wizz Air
First Officer: £35,000 – £60,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £8,000 flight duty pay)
Captain: £60,000 – £100,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £9,000 flight duty pay)
Large – Long Haul Jet aircraft:
For example: Airbus 330, 340, 380, Boeing 747, 767, 777, 787. Airline examples might include Air France, American Airlines, British Airways Long Haul, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic
First Officer: £45,000 – £120,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £8,000 flight duty pay)
Captain: £80,000 – £170,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £13,000 flight duty pay)
Depending on the company, pilots are on either a fixed or random roster pattern. A fixed roster is a pattern that has a fixed number for sequential working days e.g. 5 days on 3 days off.
A random roster is as the name suggests, it is random to suit the airline operation. Rosters are normally published around 4-6 weeks in advance.
For a short-haul operation, you can expect to be back home each day with night stops few and far between. Short-haul airline flying is typically split between earlies and late duties.
Earlies will normally have you reporting anywhere from around 4:30 am – 8 am, finishing your day between 1 pm and 5 pm. Lates can have you reporting for duty anywhere from around 1 pm to 5 pm and finishing your day between 10 pm and 1 am.
Long haul flying is mostly on a random roster. If working abroad as an expatriate, you may have working patters based on 4 weeks on 1 week off to group your days off together in case you commute. Otherwise, long haul flying is based around ‘trips’.
Each trip will normally consist of 1 day of flying, 24-48hours rest at destination (depending on flight leg length and schedule) followed by the final day to fly home.
Once home may have 1 – 3 days off until your next trip (depending on schedule and flight leg duration). Flight leg duration would dictate a minimum amount of rest for each period.
Most long haul pilots will complete around 3-5 trips a month depending on the length of the leg and how their annual leave falls.
Interested in progressing flight training? Check out my best selling Pilot Training Guide on Amazon for how to become a pilot!
If you have any questions on this post, please leave a comment in the section below. I would love to hear from you!
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 pilot with around 2,000 hours flying in Europe. He holds a masters degree in Aerospace Engineering and is a chartered engineer and a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Kudzi completed his pilot training via the self funded modular pilot training route and created kcthepilot.com to share pilot training and aviation content.