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Airline Pilot Pay and Attitudes...

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May 10, 2002
Coming from a military aviation background I'm relatively new to the civilian side. I recently got out of the military a few months ago and intended to pursue an airline career, but the more I learn about this side of aviation the more I get disgusted with it. I find it difficult to deal with all the back-stabbing, petty arguments, and oversized egos on the aviator side, and the blatant mistreatment of pilots on the management side.

One of the craziest phenomenas I've observed in this industry seems to be the pay disparity between regional pilots and major pilots. On one hand I read about major pilots earning
$2-300,000 (and in many cases more then that) annually and on the other side regional guys barely earning $25,000. Now, nobody (not even God) could convince me that a major airline pilot deserves such a high salary. Especially, since we all know that the job isn't that difficult. What throws me for another loop is hearing these pilots try and justify this huge pay, and in the same breath berate regional pilots for trying to stand up for what they deserve, which **CENSORED****CENSORED****CENSORED****CENSORED** sure is more than $25,000. Major airline pilots (from DAL, UAL, etc) will even vote themselves a payraise that may potentially bankrupt their own company. Figure that one out!!! To you major guys: Are you all living on the same planet I live on? I ask this because from where I come from (CA) I can live like a KING on $80,000. In what part of this Universe did you guys find the logic that dictates you need to bankrupt your company so you can earn over $200,000. I'm sorry if you can't manage your finances (don't buy that 3rd SUV), but a reasonable person should be plenty satisfied with $1-150,000 and a financially stable company to work for.

Now I realize this is America and I'm all for being financially successful, but there should come a point in any responsible persons life when they need to weigh what's "right" and "fair" against what their greed desires. And what is "right" and "fair" should come first.

I know if I ever make it to the majors I won't forget my roots, and will always fight for the regional pilot.

One more crazy thing I've noticed is how many pilots who think they are better because they fly larger aircraft. To those pilots I say "get yourself a good psychologist" because you've got some serious issues!!

So what do some of you folks out there think about these issues?

Regards, AJ
Regional pilot pay

Very perceptive comments from the regional pilot standpoint.

I always found it unconscionable that first-year commuter FOs are paid so horrendously!! Think about it in terms of responsibility. The FO shares responsibility for transporting paying passengers and/or freight safely, legally and on time, in a multi-million dollar piece of equipment, for the princely sum of $1,200 a month? That is reprehensible. I don't care if the said new FO is some 20-year-old with barely 1000 hours or someone older with more time and experience. The compensation is not commensurate with the responsibility and authority. I realize that improved pay and union membership comes after the first year.

Many regionals may say they operate on a shoestring and cannot afford to pay more. But plenty of 'em are wholly-owned or partially-owned by mainlines who have deep pockets.

I must respectfully disagree about the job not being difficult. It may not be neurosurgery, but it is close to rocket science. Consider what you went through in your UPT. Piloting is a highly technical profession that requires ability and a high degree of knowledge, skill, training and judgment. Consider the skill you need to fly your military helos. Go read Flying the Line. E.L. Cord learned how to fly and proclaimed that an average person can learn to fly. Look where that landed him.

After re-reading your comments about back stabbers, etc., didn't you encounter agenda-promoters, empire-builders and similar politicians in the military? I don't see any difference. When it comes right down to it, a good percentage of airline hierarchy is ex-military because the military is where the majors get most of their pilots.

I bet this thread opens a can of worms.
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I have to agree with bobbysamd.........

You want to talk about being overpaid...any idea how much Carty makes? His base salary is 4 mil...not including bonuses and stock. You tell me who is overpaid! Not even the President of the most powerful nation on this planet gets paid that.

Where's your crib that you can afford to live on 80K in CA? My mortgage alone is half that and my wife spends the rest!

Delta plus and full retro!
I absolutely cringe when people demean (often unintentionally) the profession by saying our job "is not that hard."

News flash - no other job is that hard either, when you get right down to it. However, quite a few of them pay similarly or more than airline pilot jobs do, with little time away from home and often less devotion required.

No other job is more closely scrutinized and not many other jobs can you be in such professional risk day to day. I don't mean danger, I mean risk of losing your licence or job and then good luck buddy, you're done. (headed for an easier and possibly higher paying job doing something else ;) )

Why cut youself off at the knees by "forgetting your roots" and not remembering how hard you worked to get where you did, and how concienciously you have to approach your profession - every day? If you still feel you didn't work that hard to get where you did, well, you may be right. If that's the case, think about a senior airline captain then, and how long that person has perfected their professional approach to the job - having direct control of a major part of the company every day they work with no supervision and near complete autonimy. In the airline or fractional world, you don't just show up and connect the dots with a bunch of procedures. You must have the comany bottom line and customer in mind quite a bit, and the flying is just part of the equation.

By the way, welcome to the private sector and best of luck finding a position you can enjoy! :D
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I'm just one of those regional pukes, but you can bet the mainline pilots will consider that you have just committed the equivalent of high treason with those remarks.

Not only have you challenged their high pay rates, you've questioned their egos as well.

There'll either be weeping and nashing of teeth (name calling) when they read that or complete silence (indicating the unworthy of a reply nature of your post).

It will be interesting indeed to see what feedback you get.
I wholeheartedly agree that regional guys/gals are ridiculously underpaid.

However, I disagree that mainline pilots are grossly overpaid. I've never heard anyone say a cardiovascular surgeon is overpaid. But if he makes a bad decision/wrong move, how many people die? One. If a 747 captain makes a bad decision/wrong move how many might die? Maybe 400+, not to mention said captain. A DC-9 or -737 pilot may fly 6 segments a day with 100+ passengers in back. Multiply that times 12-16 flying days a month and figure out how may people are sitting in back each month counting on that guy/gal to make every correct decision and make every right move. I'm willing to bet most surgeons don't perform more than 20 surgeries a month. Even if they screwed up every **CENSORED****CENSORED****CENSORED****CENSORED** one of them they'd only kill 20 people.

We could beat this back and forth forever. But I personally have no problem with the amount of money mainline pilots make. I hope regionals can close the gap in the future. And as long as the bigwig management types are pulling in $3-4 million a year, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect pilots to be paid well.

My 2 cents.


Judging from your comments regarding our pay, I am relieved that you have apparantly decided not to try to join our ranks.

I will not justify my pay to you (it's zero right now, btw), but I will agree with you about regional pay. I have always known that they deserve more, and have never "berated" them for trying to get more. The very vast majority of major airline pilots know that all pilots, regardless of the size of their aircraft, deserve to be well paid.

I also agree with your comment that those who think that they are "better" because of the size of their plane should get help. Luckily, I have not come across many who feel that way. The vast majority of the people with whom I have flown are true gentleman, and realize that your job does not define you as a person. I am no worse a person now that I have been furloughed than I was when flying a 767 across the pond, and no better then than I was when flying a BE-1900 to Presque Isle, Maine.

It appears that it is you who is judging us by the size of our airplanes.
Because I didn't feel like writing a book yesterday I may not have articulated my self enough.

First, I do believe that being a pilot is a highly skilled job and we all deserve respect and decent pay. My comment about the job not being that hard, well, I guess that all depends on a particular persons talent. I've seen many pilots struggle for years trying to become proficient pilots and I've also seen many who fall into flying like an old pair of comfortable shoes. So the ability to develope the skill is relative. Also, I've noticed that for those who truly like their job it comes easier. As for the long march to the top of the pay scale, well that's another issue. I fly because I LOVE it. Unfortunately, most, and I will reiterate it, MOST of the pilots I've met in the civ world don't really enjoy it. They are after the big paycheck and the two-week work month (and being seen in a flight suit). How do I come to this conclusion. That's a no-brainer. Just go to any flying school, or listen to any group of airline pilots talk. All their conversations seem to be about big paychecks and golfing vacations. Once in a blue-moon I meet a pilot who you can tell just truly loves his job. They love to talk about systems and aviation related events. They will fly every chance they get and their facial expressions say it all.
When ever my wife and I go to the airport she always comments on the droopy and depressed expressions on the airline pilots faces and asks me if I really want to join that group. I realize these comments will be hard to digest for many, just as all those harsh comments the average citizen makes about politicians and lawyers. If you all think I'm smoking dope ask yourselves why airline pilots as a group have a higher then normal rate of alcoholism and depression (read a few medical journals and you'll see the stats). Anyway, my original comments about pay wasn't to say we should get paid less. It's about major pilots being realistic about the health of their industry. Everyone seems to believe the big companies have bottomless wallets. If any of you follow the financial schematics of a large airline company you WILL notice that they usually walk the edge on financial stability. And ironically, one of their largest financial burdens is pilot salary.

As for comparing our profession to other professions regarding equal pay for equal worth that's another can of worms. Let's take a look at house-wives and mothers who have to raise a family and don't get any respect. Raising a child to grow up to be a decent intelligent human and taking care of a family is far more important to this world then flying a bus. And I will guarantee you an emergency-room nurse or inner-city social worker or school teacher will work harder than any civilian pilot EVER will. In my book of common sense they should get paid more. If you are offended by what I'm saying my guess is you are one of those pilots that truly don't love aviation and are after the money and prestiege. Sure I care to be paid fairly and respected for my profession. But I understand reality as well. Some folks on this message board remind me of the local developer in my city who wants to keep building more houses even though we have a water shortage......"Hello Mcfly!" this is a desert!!!!

Fortunately, I don't have an ego that clouds my thinking. And I don't have, or need 2 SUV's, a sports car, a 4000sq.ft home and a beach house in Key West to enjoy life, which for some strange reason seems to be the goal of many-a-pilot I've met. My family of four lives darn comfortable with our modest pay. And the reason I guess I'm counting my blessings is because I've spent many years in the military in all to many countries where the average citizen is lucky to afford one decent meal a-day. For all you who make over $100,000 annually, and still complain, I suggest you expand your perspectives by going to Russia, the Balkans, or Africa and ask those pilots what they are making. Sure, this is America, the land of the rich and "do what ever you please." I guarantee you that it won't be for much longer if we Americans don't stop our gluttonous consumption of resources and curb our desire to earn and blow money on rediculous things.

As for those executives who make the millions, well, that's what is great about America......you have the freedom to pursue a career in management as well. Just be prepared to work straight from 05-2000 every day, six days every week (and don't forget to get good medical insurance to cover all those stress related illnesses you'll be getting).

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm all for everyone getting their fair share. And I understand that those major pilots have traveled long and hard to get to where they are at (at least most of them, anyway). I also understand that we humans have some nasty natural behavioral characteristics that will cloud our ability to reason. I'm talking about greed, ego, hording, etc. As we constantly berate our politicians and lawyers for these behaviors, we also need to realize we as aviators are not exempt from them, and need to fight against them to act responsibly. I personally, and I'm sure most of you, would rather see the entire industry healthy instead of just a small portion of it.

Anthony, you sound like an angry out-of-work Army helo guy who just discovered he's going to have to start out at the bottom of the pay scale. Your familiarity with the subject appears superficial, your line of thought is unreasoned and your attitude is bad. I believe you'll have a hard time getting hired no matter what you do to improve your quals.

I'd guess that you were wearing a beer helmet when you composed that post.


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