Minimum-wage pilots? Here’s one way of looking at flight deck salaries

By | November 9th, 2009

pilot

The average cockpit wage cost per average passenger fare per hour of flight is just $3.73 — almost half the minimum wage — according to analysis by Robert Herbst of the Web site Airlinefinancials.com.

Pilots at Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines fared the best, making $6.09 and $4.14 an hour, respectively, while JetBlue Airways and AirTran Airways ranked the lowest, earning $2.93 an hour and $3.03 an hour, respectively.

Herbst puts the numbers into some perspective:


Since 9/11 and the bankruptcy or reorganization of every legacy airline, pilot hourly pay rates have been reduced to what they were almost 20 years ago. In addition, work rule changes force pilots to work more and longer days than they ever have.

Fatigue is a growing problem as long scheduled days get even longer when weather and maintenance delays are encountered.

Pilots from United (UAL), Delta (DAL), Northwest (now merged with Delta) and USAir (LCC) all lost significant amounts of their pensions as those airlines went through bankruptcy after 9/11.

Recognizing the above, how much of the average passenger airline ticket fare is now used to pay pilots to accept the responsibility they have? Not very much!

Something to keep in mind the next time you see a story about pilot salaries.

Update: As some commenters have suggested, I’ve posted a link to Robert’s complete analysis on this issue. Unlike Herbst, I am not an airline analyst, but I found his numbers interesting and worth contemplating.



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