Average Commercial Airline Pilot Salary

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Commercial airline pilots are responsible for supervising the flight crew.

Commercial aircraft pilots are highly skilled professionals who fly airplanes or helicopters for business purposes including the transport of cargo or passengers, crop dusting, aircraft testing, traffic monitoring, firefighting, and emergency rescue and evacuation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Commercial airlines typically employ at least a two-person pilot crew including the captain and the first officer, who is sometimes referred to as the co-pilot. Commercial airline pilots are well compensated for their services.

  1. Average Income

    • The income for commercial airline pilots can vary widely depending upon a number of factors, including position as captain or first officer, type of aircraft being piloted, destination and whether the flights are conducted during the day or night, according to the BLS. The national median income for all commercial airline pilots as of May 2008 was $111,680, according to the BLS.

    Time Frame

    • Experience plays an important part in determining a commercial airline pilot's salary, according to PayScale.com. An airline pilot just starting out can expect to earn between approximately $25,000 and $75,000 during her first year on the job. Commercial airline pilots with more than five years on the job may earn up to approximately $86,000 per year. Those with more than 20 years' experience can command salaries between approximately $108,000 and $180,000 per year, as of October 2010.


    • The geographical location where a commercial airline pilot is headquartered can affect the amount of her salary, according to PayScale.com. Pilots headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, have the widest salary range, from $40,560 to $181,454. Pilots from Houston, Texas had the narrowest salary range, from $75,631 to $123, 347.

    Employment Opportunities

    • New job opportunities for commercial airline pilots is expected to keep pace with the economy, growing at approximately 12 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the BLS. The greatest opportunities are expected to be with small, independent and regional airlines. Competition for pilot positions with major carriers is expected to be keen, with the advantage going to the most experienced pilots.


    • Salary is only one component of a commercial airline pilot's total compensation, according to the BLS. Most airline pilots receive a per diem allowance for time spent away from home. They may receive a uniform allowance for the purchase and maintenance of their uniforms. Immediate family members typically are provided free, space available accommodations on company airlines. Additional benefits may include paid time off, bonuses and employer contributions to health and life insurance as well as government and private retirement programs.

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