For Airline Pilots, The Struggle Is Real

Listen to pilots talk publicly, posturing in contract negotiations, it’s a grueling career that no one should want. Privately, though, many realize that being entrusted with $100 million machines and flying them around for a living is a pretty great gig. Many also build side businesses in their time off (insurance is a common one).

Picketing by pilots is a bad look, though. Pilots do not realize how they come across. They simply aren’t successful marketing themselves as the exploited worker class.

Delta Air Lines pilots have been conducting ‘informational picketing’ to protest their exhaustion from working 80 hours a month. And they’re doing it by marching in the hot sun. Someone flagged these photos for me with the caption ‘Atlanta White Pride.’

Watch the spokesman for the American Airlines pilots union not answer Andrew Ross Sorkin’s question on Squawk Box about $400,000+ pay for senior widebody captains under American’s new contract proposal.

United Airlines pilots just negotiated an industry-leading contract that’s no longer industry leading, and they don’t seem to want it anymore. They were crowing about 14% raises. That was last Friday.

There are absolutely legitimate beefs about the pilot lifestyle. If you have a family you spend a lot of time apart from them. If your airline is operationally unsound you wind up in cities you never expected to be flying to. And you may not even get your hotel scheduled properly (take matters into your own hands, book the room yourself, and fight for reimbursement which might take months). You sit around a lot…

Airlines can and should do better for their pilots, and for their customers who rely on those pilots. But the truth is it’s a great gig for many, and even (some) regional carriers are now paying more.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. These poor pilots and their 80 hour a month schedule…bless their tired little hearts.

    You know what a loaded 53 foot trailer is at 75 miles an hour…a rolling missle and truckers put in much longer hours, work twice as hard, don’t get paid near as much, and don’t bitch even a 10th of what these pilots do…and they don’t have an auto pilot button to push or a first office to take over in between destinations.

    And before some ass clown shows up and says that being a semi drivers doesn’t take skills I say, go and give it a try.

    Being a pilot vs a trucker takes a different set skills for sure, but life would be really hard without one of these professions, and world absolutely stop without the other…let that sink in.

  2. LOL! you obviously have not examined why there is a pilot shortage. It costs $60,000 or more just to get to the point where you can start earning a buck flying. There are very high barriers to becoming an airline pilot. Rest issues abound, are real and kill passengers. Pilots can be “scheduled” to be on duty for up to 12 hours, and fly up to 8 hours in that 12 hour period. But here is the catch, once they depart, that can be extended. I used to work for two of the majors scheduling pilots and flight attendants, and I am a private pilot. I know a little about it.

    You mention the $400,000 for a senior widebody Captain as if that is a common pay. Pilots are paid based on the max gross weight of the aircraft (the heavier it is, the more it pays) on a per hour basis. Domestic verses international pay differentials apply. But that is the top of the pay scale. The average is much lower.

    And you completely dismiss all of the training, studying, tests, the requirement to get a 1st class medical every 6 months (which includes an ekg that the faa must be monitoring as it is given (so it can’t be faked). This plus the fact that one incident can destroy your career after spending all of that time and money building it up. So your out of line there dude. If it is so good, go do it. Your envy is stupid.

    You look at all of the positives while not really considering the negatives. Those pilots have EARNED those perks. And I don’t see pilots banging on the Airline doors trying to get hired right now with the pilot shortage there is.

  3. @2808 heavy you don’t understand what the 80 hours means. That is 80 FLIGHT hours, working or duty hours. Actual working hours ends up being around 160 hours plus per month including duty hours. A flight hour is from when the pilot releases the brakes at the origination, to the time they set the brakes at the destination. If you envy the pilots, I suggest a career change.

  4. @2808 Heavy – Ah, yes, those truckers who famously don’t ever bitch or protest. Imagine if they were as thin-skinned and ever tried to, say, form a convoy and block an international border or cause traffic jams around a nation’s capital. Unimaginable!

  5. The people griping about the pilots’ union and their great gig miss the point. Pilots have a great gig because they have strong unions

  6. 80 “pay hours” doesn’t mean anything, Gary is simply misconstruing it to fit his narrative. What should really be considered is the pilot’s time away from base (TAFB) which is typically around 300 hours per month for a typical low to mid seniority domestic schedule. That’s where the sacrifice is made in this career… In contrast, someone like @Rjb who works a “grueling” 55 hour week in a cubicle and sleeps in their own bed every night would only spend 220 hours away from home each month. Bless your little heart, @Rjb.

  7. There’s no easy answer here. One could make the argument that being a teacher should be a much better paid and professionalized business because over the course of a career one can seriously shape the lives of thousands of people. (And I agree that truckers deserve better, but then physicians shouldn’t be wasting their time with endless paperwork either.)

    I’ve a commercial pilot’s license and that’s very far from airlines, though I’ve trained with and met many people in the industry. From what I can tell, to become an airline pilot requires a tremendous amount of continual training, often far less lucrative conditions starting at a regional carrier and unless you came out of heavy aircraft flying in the Air Force, very serious investments in time and money. Then both the company and the FAA are breathing down your neck, and all it takes is one irate passenger to cause trouble either in the air or by a serious complain, valid or not. And the career can be short! Violate a significant rule (even if it’s accidental and not a safety issue) or fail a physical and you may be out for good.

    While a lot of the regimentation and regulation that exists in the industry was done in reaction to past accidents, and the safety record is now excellent, the need to handle stress never ends. While most captains and first officers seem to do a good job of managing it, there are human limits to everything. Maybe they’re reaching some here.

  8. All I see is jealousy from the corporate drones who work 50+ hours a week to make money for the bossman and shareholders in a cubicle or flying aruond presenting excel spreadsheets to bored boardrooms full of other corporate drones.

    Give the pilots all they ask for, cut management salaries.

  9. Having just finished a 50 year career in aviation with the vast majority of it being in scheduling working with pilots I can tell you this…

    1. There are two types of pilots in the world.- Pilots and Aviator’s! The pilot group is growing larger every day and there is nothing special about them. From there point of view it’s just a job and they are simply ‘technicians in charge of a beautiful machine’. However the Aviator group, that sadly grows smaller every day, are ‘Artists in Love with Flight’.

    2. Most people should know that there are a million+ moving pieces to an airlines operation. It is very akin to a big choreographed dance and if one of the dancers trips then the dominoes start to fall. Having the responsibility multiple times to put an operation back together after blizzards, hurricanes, strikes and you name it, it is not an easy task! It is further complicated when crews get on the phone with scheduling and drag out the conversation because they ‘aren’t on their schedule’. Just like the ‘conga line’ waiting for take off when the aircraft gets a ‘position and hold’ order the planes behind him get delayed.

    3. Many many times I have had Pilots (and cabin crews) complain that they ‘are not on their schedule’. (Plz reread the 1st sentence of paragraph 2 above). As to ‘not being on your schedule’ and to be blunt – what difference does it make? As long as you stay FAR and contract compliant for flight time and duty limits does it really make a difference if you were supposed to fly A to B and now the company, who is trying to get the ‘big dance’ restarted, needs you to fly A to C. I am assuming here that the contract provides for trip and line protection so you are not going to loose any money. I can tell you that Aviators will tell the scheduler ‘where do you need me to go’ and pilots will demand the scheduler explain ‘why do you need me to go’?

    4. In no way, shape or form am I implying that management of the airline is totally innocent in this. Operational knowledge is priceless and it is gained over many many years. The people who ‘know how to make it work’ mostly departed when the virus struck and the folks that are left are faced with a very steep learning curve. One thing that could be done is that the airline could bring back on a temporary basis some of these experienced Operational wizards who could help mentor the new folks.

    5. As to ‘fatiguing’ schedules? Yes fatigue is cumulative and can sneak up on you but each and every person (Aviators and Pilots) flying the metal around are Professionals and very very well trained. So if you are ‘fatigued’ then SAY SO! If a Crewmember told me they were ‘fatigued’ then that was the end of the conversation and yes I have had to cancel more then one trip after the word ‘fatigued’ was used. If you have to go to the CP to explain it then do so.
    Also, for those of you who do this, stop trying to commute in right before your trip! The commute, although not legally part of your duty day, is in fact part of your duty day and it adds to that cumulative fatigue. Your body doesn’t care if you are working the flight, riding in a psgr seat or riding the buckboard jump seat in the cockpit trying to get to work.

    6. Finally I completely understand that your schedules can take you away from home for extended periods. However – That is the nature of the business you signed up to be part of. Additionally consider this…most work months are scheduled to be 15 or 16 days. So that means you are working 1/2 of every month or 6 months out of every year. Even if you only get 2 weeks vacation a year (and most are 3 or 4 weeks vacation) those vacation days are usually placed on what would have been your work days for that month. That means instead of 2 weeks vacation that month you now effectively have the entire month off since the remaining days on your schedule were days off to start with. Project that out in a calendar year and you are working 5 months out of the year.

    In my 50 years I have nothing but high praise for the Aviators (and a lot of pilots) I have met. I have watched many many times from the JS some beautiful, professional CRM in action in some very challenging environments. Bargram, TRW+ and auto lands in extremely low vis are examples.
    This summer, and likely into the fall, is another ‘extremely challenging environment’ and you all need to be the Professionals that you are and show the company and the public how Aviators react and handle a very challenging environment.

    Thank you

  10. 99% of everything most of us have ever had most likely at some point was on a truck…can’t say that for planes. Both are respectable professions but without one, the world would almost stops…without the other, the world is just highly inconvenienced.

  11. You’re the only one in this thread talking about trucks. Why though? This article has zero to do with truck drivers, two totally different professions for a multitude of reasons.

  12. @spencer rice… so you are saying aviators just let the company tear up the contract and do whatever to them???? It is not about the love of flying, it is about the contract and you as a rep of the company have a duty to honor it… so yes pilots should enforce their contract.

  13. We pay people for rare skills – not the number of hours they work or how hard their job is. Airline pilot – rare skill vs. truck driver, which is a pretty common skill. Professional sports player – really rare skill. Gym teacher – not so much.

    As for teachers, the best are worth more than they’re paid. But the average teacher is involved in white collar assembly line work. Once you figure out what to do, you just keep doing it over and over. It is it’s own special kind of hell. There’s a reason a tremendous number of beginning teachers quit within five year of starting.

  14. We have kids in the military basically playing a video game flying drones and dropping bombs with precision on the other side of the world. I’m pretty sure we could figure out how to eliminate at least one pilot off of each aircraft.

  15. Not even remotely the same or even comparable. Only money is lost if those drones crash, which they do. Frequently. Can’t say the same about a commercial airliner. I understand most people like you are clueless in regards to flying an transport airplane, but it’s extremely dynamic and we will never program a computer to handle every single combination of issues that can be encountered. Not to mention the liability, insurance companies will NEVER touch it. The cost realization of removing even one pilot will never, ever be realized. The aircraft is a tiny piece of the puzzle that’ll have to be heavily modified to make it happen. Not to mention the worldwide airspace system, navigation methods, etc. Every single aircraft and airspace would have to be standardized to make it work. Will never happen. Better stay in your lane and stick to subjects you’re at least remotely familiar with.

  16. We could pay these assholes a THOUSAND dollars an hour and they’d still complain. Their union has kept becoming a pilot an unattainable goal for many just to keep their current members stock up. After the American people propped these children by ensuring their full pay while millions lost jobs, they thank us by burning their companies to the ground and forcing families to sleep on airport floors for days at a time. The worse part is……they do this while smiling. They can all go to hell. We need another good industry-rattling bankruptcy/liquidation to sent about 5,000 of these clowns to a new job at Home Depot.

  17. Thanks for the paycheck!! If covid showed us anything, it’s that the government won’t let an airline fail!! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta see what trips I can fly for 300% of my normal pay rate this week. It certainly feels great to be in demand, sorry you can’t relate!

    You’re only 1 bad medical away from not being “in demand”. Karma’s a bitch….see you in 6 months.

  19. Oh man with the amount of insurance I carry if I lose a medical, I’d be set forever!! I have a real OG of an AME so it’s not even a remote concern. Thanks for YOUR concern hahaha

  20. PHL
    Oh so you have an AME who’s complicit in passing an unfit subject. Cool. Does he submit a fraudulent EKG too? Yes, the insurance policy will come in handy as I’m sure you’re still paying child support and alimony to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th ex-wives who you cheated on and the children who don’t want you in their lives.

  21. Whichever side you’re on of the justifiable/not justifiable picketing debate, @Gary is completely correct that pretty much nobody sees airline pilots as the exploited underclass.

  22. @UnionTHIS : First if you don’t like your job -QUIT! Shut the hell up and go to work. No one in this country has it anywhere as bad as workers before us. Try 60 base hours per week and sometimes 68 working construction. Not too many shade trees out on the site. And long before air condition or heater, you just tough it. It pisses me off to read the BS of a few, especially union workers. So pitiful! Get off your dead ass and go to work! No one owes you anything.

  23. @2808. 80 hours is usually almost 180 hours FDP

    Last month i got PAID for 80 hours … that’s door closed. Total work hours added up to 182 (max FDP is 190 per month ). While we do safety checks , walk arounds and prep the aircraft for departure … post arrival walk arounds… sits between flights. It’s a grueling work week. For commuters (which some don’t have a choice since their base closed ) it’s even crazier with king commutes which are standby , unpaid and usually in a Jumpseat or middle seat. Still a great gig but we are way under paid and over used. Don’t let 80 hours trick you. 13 years since the last US airline crash. Thousands of incredible professionals taking care of you day in and day out. Red eyes , crap summer weather , delays and craziness and we are up there making sure you are safe , comfortable and as on time as possible. I am grateful for you as well. It’s the passengers who keep us going.

  24. Aren’t many of these pilots anti vaxxers and trumpers… boo hoo.. entitled old white coots. Time to bring diversity into their ranks.

  25. I support every pilot that stands up against their airline. Keep standing no matter what anyone says or thinks!

  26. I can 100% agree pilots are overpaid when you look at what we do on the surface. What you have to disconnect with is “hard work” doesn’t equal “high pay”. My favorite saying is “they pay us to say no”. Essentially, we are the last circuit breaker between a system in motion (the airline) pushing aircraft to move balancing economics with safety. It’s why a union is so important in this sort of position.

    That being said, the folks making 300k+ a year now were making the equivalent of $10/hr in the 90’s and 2000’s. We stayed in the game because of the payoff (that was significantly slashed post 9/11 and 2008 recession). Some co-workers left the industry after the 2008 recession.

    Many pilots have second jobs because of events such as those as well as Covid – you never know when you’ll lose your job and go from being overpaid to unpaid in a nanosecond.

    I do agree that the job could (mostly) be eliminated and relocated to a ground based position and the in-flight position be “dumbed down” to someone with decision abilities with zero ability to operate the aircraft through automation. Which, will happen, eventually, and blogs like this will sneer and point and laugh at the jobs lost.

    As for the 80 hours a month thing, lol ok.

  27. If any pilot tells you a commercial aircraft can’t be flown remotely, they are lying.

  28. Airline pilot wages in the US are so high because airline pilots have one of the highest unionization rates of any workgroup. As unions do, they protect the financial interests of their most senior members but doing all possible to keep the supply of labor down. The current pilot shortage due to a lack of new applicants is due to union success in keeping regional jets out of the big airlines while raising the requirements to become a pilot.
    To no one’s surprise, the current raft of US pilot unions are trying to take advantage of the shortage of new applicants to extort airlines for more money instead of fixing the root issues which ensure that the supply of pilots remains sufficient. The fact that United came out with an absolutely horrific contract, is seeing it shot down by its members while American “bested” UA’s contract by just a couple percent shows that the airlines are not going to be extorted into the 20% pay raises in a year that pilots think they deserve.
    The market will correct the imbalance or the government will step in to prevent a complete collapse of air service to small cities and the collapse of deep discount carriers. It is not lost on any aviation economist that JetBlue is trying to acquire Spirit not only to force up fares but also to get pilots which JBLU desperately needs to keep growing. The alternative is for JBLU to dramatically increase its pilot pay which, on top of growing seniority is why JBLU and SAVE are two of the only airlines that won’t make money in the 2nd quarter.
    The solution will be to get more pilots into the pipeline – which Skywest is trying to do with using lower flight time requirements for a new subsidiary – as well as use automation to eliminate crew members on very long flights. When Airbus acknowledges that the A350 could operate as a single pilot aircraft in certain phases of flight, you can bet that Boeing has been told by the airlines to figure out the same thing – if the 787 doesn’t already have the capability. It simply does not take 4 pilots to cross the Pacific or 3 to cross the Atlantic when the plane is on autopilot and with systems data being continually sent by satellite to airline headquarters.
    Finally, no airline is going to agree to pay increases for pilots that they cannot pass along to other work groups because they will not allow the labor cost imbalance to grow. While there are autopilots to fly a plane, there is no automechanic; it is far more necessary to have a competent and skilled mechanic who can work solo than to have two highly paid pilots.
    I suspect after a few months of pilot union temper tantrums and an unwillingness by airlines to open their checkbooks like pilot unions want, pilot unions will accept the lowball offers from airlines just as the economy tips into a full blown recession.

  29. @Tim Dunn is right on the money on the automation piece, at least in the medium and long term. I have tremendous respect for aviators and don’t mind them being well paid, but there is no argument that the higher their demands for wages and what I’ll politely call “work life balance” here, the faster they bring the onset of automation. Just like $15-20/hour burger flippers is going to bring on in the next decade the robots. You’ll get your piece for a while, and then it’ll all disappear.

    It will be sad, but it won’t be a surprise.

    I have little respect for the pilots who knew the state of travel right now, got paid to sit on their asses on my dime during a pandemic making more than I did working full time, knew American didn’t want them to trade their trips and then took advantage of a technical glitch to do so anyway.

  30. Jon,
    just to note, American has the lowest cancellation rate of the big 3 today and UA was the highest at 2%. It would appear that most AA pilots didn’t take advantage of the situation even though it is certain there were many that had drop requests in and trips starting today.
    It is precisely when union mouthpieces can’t get their membershp to follow that you know the rhetoric is no longer viable.
    Regarding the supply side of new pilots, as much as the big 4 would love to see some small carriers go out of business and be able to pull out of a bunch of small cities (UA just announced a few more small cities that are being cancelled), government will step in.
    It will be far better if airline unions can help craft the solution rather than having the government force it on the industry.

  31. For those pilots on here that want to argue that their 80 flight hour month is up to a max of 190 hours away from base, a month has an average of 22 work days.
    190 hours over 22 work days is not even 9 hours per day.
    As has been repeatedly noted, airline pilots DO NOT work significantly longer in a month than other workers.
    It is also not like any airline pilot took the job only to find out that you will not be at home every night.
    If you think you should be highly compensated because you are away from home for extended periods of time, then you need to compare your job to others that require extended time away from home which includes other intercity transportation employees who do not get paid anywhere near what airline pilots get.
    Airline pilots are highly paid because pilot unions have turned airline pilot labor into a cartel. Because airline labor can be so destructive to the economy, airlines have power to limit labor’s impact that other industries do not have.
    Right now, there doesn’t appear to be a single US airline that is goign to offer anywhere near as much as pilot unions are “demanding”
    Any pilot that genuinely believes they are on the verge of huge gains is setting themselves up for a major letdown.

  32. Oh man that post was a good laugh, thank you. I’ll leave it at this, you can bet your happy @$& that if Boeing or Airbus or whoever tried to certify a plane with one pilot that the other pilot(s) won’t move an INCH Unless they’re being paid and compensated for the entirety of their wages. Won’t save the airline a cent other than negligible training expenses. Will NEVER EVER happen. Besides, how many layman passengers are gonna ride in a plane manufactured by Boeing just because they say it’s safe with fewer pilots? That is laughable.

  33. Well, pilots used all their wiles to limit the number of new pilots so wages would be high. They got what they wanted. Live with it…..

  34. PARIS, June 16 2021 (Reuters) – Cathay Pacific (0293.HK) is working with Airbus (AIR.PA) to introduce “reduced crew” long-haul flights with a sole pilot in the cockpit much of the time, industry sources told Reuters.

    The programme, known within Airbus as Project Connect, aims to certify its A350 jet for single-pilot operations during high-altitude cruise, starting in 2025 on Cathay passenger flights, the sources said.

    Airbus has previously disclosed plans to add single-pilot capability to the A350, but the airlines’ participation had not been reported. Work has resumed after the COVID-19 crisis paused the programme, Chief Test Pilot Christophe Cail said.

    In a closed-door industry briefing this year, the agency suggested reduced-crew flights would begin with a single operator, according to notes of the meeting reviewed by Reuters.

  35. Life of a pilot…earn a private, commercial, and ATP certificate-cost 50-100k, build up flight time which takes several years cost 100k, commuter airlines pay first year 20k while commuting and staying at commuter pads sitting reserve cost 20-30k, 3-5 years flying as a first officer before upgrade.

  36. How is paying for your training as a pilot and earning little to start any different than doctors or lawyers, both of which have eight and seven years of college at a cost of up to $500k? Some lawyers, but not most, then earn $200k, but for 2500 billable hours per year, the rest earn far less, but for for at least 1800 billable, which translates to a lot of 10-12 hours days and weekends, as not all time is “billable”. Doctors still have internships, fellowships, and residencies for another four to eight years, often at crap pay and rotten hours. They all might grumble, but they know that’s how it works. And almost none are unionized, thank you very much.

    Perhaps pilots complain a bit too much…

  37. Short call reserve (15 hours a day) at the airlines you have to get inside the airport within 2 hours once called. Long call you have 12 hours notice. Reserve is 20 days a month and you fly where and when the airlines send you. There is no pay (ZERO) for driving to the airport, signing in 1 hour prior, updating navigation charts, commuting in night before, checking company mail, checking flight plan, route, weather, speaking with dispatch, getting to gates, talking to with passengers, boarding and sitting at a gate with the door shut. Pay does not start until the door is shut and brakes released.

    Each year a pilot has to get a FAA medical. If you do not pass, you cannot fly. Each year you attend recurrent ground school and simulator flying. If you do not pass, you do not fly. Simulator flying includes engine outs, engines on fires and a multiple of emergencies. Even though it’s been a year, you are expected to know it and pass. There is no “training”

    After 3-10 years at the commuters, you might receive an interview at the major airlines. If you are lucky to get hired, training takes 6-8 weeks away from home, probation is 1 year (you can get fired for anything), first year pay is around 50-65k, next 5 years 80-100k.

    The first several years you sit on reserve which means a crash pad for those who live outside domicile. Reserve is 14 hours a day with 2 hours to the airport. Reserve pay guarantee is 72 hours a month (pay begins once the door is shut, brakes released and ends when brakes are parked). There is no pay for those days waiting for a gate agent to show up and open the door. Reserves cannot pick up trips on their days off.

    After 20-25 years you can upgrade to captain. First several years you sit on reserve. Line holders can pick up trips. You only get paid for hours you fly. The very senior captains who are heathy enough to fly a full 80 hours make 400k. This lasts for about 3-5 years before mandatory retirement at 65 years old (use to be 60).

  38. My best friend is a surgeon and was making over $1M a very short time after his fellowship. Actually, he moonlighted at a small community hospital during the last few years of his residency once he was licensed and was paid $2K per day. Not bad at all and he paid off his loans doing that. Not even remotely the same comparison for a pilot since we are essentially prohibited by law from earning a livable wage for years throughout our training. Also, doctors and lawyers typically don’t have management pressuring them to make unsafe decisions at the risk of being fired or disciplined. It sounds like you really need to do some research on the benefits of a pilot’s union. The money is just a teeny tiny little piece of that puzzle.

  39. The medical field go home, enjoy their family, eat and and sleep in their own homes most nights (residents may sleep some nights at hospital).

    Airline crew are away from home 80 percent of their lives eating and sleeping away from their home. They are governed by a airline contract and union like it or not.

    Most pilots are not ever grumbling in the airports or on flights. The contracts were thrown out in bankruptcy during airline mergers, have been expired for years and stalling at negotiating a new contract for 3-5 years. The contracts dictate not only pay but quality of life on and off duty. Most pilots commute since living expenses at domicile are outrageous.

    The unions arrange the picketing. When one airline reaches a contract deal, the other union increases the pressure. Similar to sports contract negotiations or draft picks, the media attention increases.

  40. @Tim Dunn Airbus can try to certify or develop whatever they want. Again, having a single person at the controls will likely never be allowed on a commercial airline in the US during our lifetimes. Besides, as I mentioned before, if this was ever tried you can bet your salt that the parking break won’t be released until the airlines pay the equivalent of the salary and benefits (and then some) they try to eliminate to the remaining pilot(s). Will save them nothing in wages and cost a fortune in implementation and upgrading fleets. The idea of pilotless planes seems so easy and straightforward but it is far much more complex with 10’s of 1000’s of different things that will have to be considered and changed. It will be prohibitively expensive for airlines and government aviation authorities who will have to standardize worldwide and replace ground based equipment everywhere. Literally every aspect will have to be changed.

  41. Captain here at a major… you are right, we do have a pretty good gig. Just to clarify – 80 hours is flight time pay. We still average 10-14 hour days 4-5 days a week (but we only are paid once door is closed). That means our work day is the same as in the corporate world, sometimes a little longer. Overall, I think most are content with pay, but we, just like the rest of corporate US, are looking for a better work/life balance. Gary’s point is valid in that we are not marketing this message very well.

  42. Airline pilots are forbidden to fly for pay for anyone else anywhere, anytime. It is grounds for immediate termination. There is no “moonlighting”.

  43. FAA regs require 2 pilots for a 737, 727 and similar. They can build what they want but it goes by the regulations require.

  44. That was the point I made, doctors and lawyers both freely moonlight and make a mint doing so. Pilots do not have this luxury so the above comparison isn’t valid whatsoever.

  45. Chris-what is your angst against pilots? They are pawns of the airlines. You need to redirect your anger towards the airline mgmt.

    You have the option to travel by car, bus, train, or private jet.

  46. PHLFlyer,
    you clearly are engaged with the conversation.
    Airline pilot labor unions are a cartel. There is no “open market” for airline pilot labor in the US.
    Airline management has the protection of the Railway Labor Act which prevents labor from doing harm to the US economy. We are now down to 4 passenger airlines in the US that control 80% of US passenger traffic – and the discount segment of the industry is in a tailspin that will only make the big 4 stronger.
    Airline management either directly or indirectly have decided that there will be no large gains for airline pilots in a season where ALL US pilot unions are trying to get massive gains. The fact that UA send out a turd of a contract complicit with its union only to find out that it was unacceptable to its members only to be followed only by a slight less “turdy” proposal from AA mgmt shows that the weakest two of the big 4 are not willing or able to pay the types of across the board pay increases that pilot unions expect.
    Labor can kick and scream all they want but it requires significant federal approval for airline labor to strike and to fail to perform their duties. The US is simply not going to allow labor to destroy the US airline system.

    It is not a surprise that Cathay Pacific has been “chosen” as the trial airline for single pilot longhaul cruise operations. The rest of the industry is not signing up now but they will as soon as sufficient government approvals are obtained in years, not decades.

    The zenith of airline labor employment has passed. The airline industry has consolidated. Airline pilots are paid like executives but increasingly do a job that can be automated. Arguing about how difficult the job is and how much time is spent away from home only highlights that there are better uses for an intelligent labor force.

    If airlines

  47. The way I see it, pilots make good money for highly skilled work. Nothing wrong with that. Except bitching.

    $60K investment to start a good career? How is it much? Which other good career path costs less? Doctor? Lawyer? Even an IT guy will pay as much for a good college. Plus many pilots get their career started from the Airforce and it won’t cost them much to switch to civil planes.

    Low pay at the start. Everybody goes through this.

    Staying away from the family? Ever heard of road warrior jobs? Yes, pilots will spend a few days out but then a few days in. On average they probably spend as much time with the family as anyone going to the office on a daily basis.

    Training? Who does not have to learn new stuff all the time? It’s normal.

    Incompetent management? Who doesn’t have that? And you call incompetent the guys who were able to extort a whole bunch of taxpayers money from the government to keep you on payroll while doing nothing (unless you took a hefty payout and left).

    So I don’t buy “poor pilots’ life”. Stop bitching.

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