✨ Fill and validate PDF forms with InstaFill AI. Save an average of 34 minutes on each form, reducing mistakes by 90% and ensuring accuracy. Learn more

Earning a Fortune in Commercial Flying: How Much Commercial Pilots Make

February 17, 2023 · 4 min read

Commercial pilots are responsible for safely operating commercial airliners and transporting passengers, mail, and cargo from one location to another. They typically have a combination of training, experience, and certifications that allow them to operate aircraft on a regular basis. With the growing demand for air travel, the demand for commercial pilots has also increased, making it a lucrative career choice for many. 

How Much do Commercial Pilots Actually Make?

Becoming a commercial pilot is a challenging and rewarding career, and one of the key questions that many aspiring pilots have is, "How much does a commercial pilot make?" The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the type of aircraft you fly, the size of the airline, and your experience level.

Type of aircraft

The type of aircraft you fly will significantly impact your earnings as a commercial pilot. Pilots who fly large commercial airliners typically earn more than pilots who fly smaller regional aircraft. This is because larger airlines typically offer higher salaries and more benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, and retirement benefits.

Size of the airline

The size of the airline you work for will also impact your earnings as a commercial pilot. Larger airlines, such as Delta or American Airlines, typically offer higher salaries and more benefits than smaller regional airlines. However, smaller airlines may offer more opportunities for advancement, as they often have a more flexible and dynamic organizational structure.

Experience level

Your experience level as a commercial pilot will also impact your earnings. As you gain more experience and fly more hours, your earning potential will increase. Pilots with years of experience and a strong flight record can command higher salaries and may be eligible for additional benefits and perks.

Geographic location

The geographic location where you work as a commercial pilot can also impact your earnings. Pilots who work in high-cost areas, such as New York City or San Francisco, may earn more than pilots who work in lower-cost areas.


The rank of the pilot within the airline also plays a role in their salary. Captains typically earn higher salaries than first officers, and senior captains often earn the highest salaries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for commercial pilots in the United States is $99,640 as of May 2021. However, the range of salaries for commercial pilots can be quite wide, with the lowest 10% earning less than $50,000 per year and the highest 10% earning more than $140,000 per year. For example, a captain at a major airline such as Delta or American may earn an average salary of $150,000 to $180,000 per year, while a first officer at a regional airline may earn an average salary of $60,000 to $80,000 per year.

Overtime Pay

Many commercial pilots work long hours and are often required to be away from home for extended periods of time. To compensate for this, many airlines offer overtime pay to their pilots. Overtimes pay can significantly increase a pilot's salary and is an important consideration when evaluating the earning potential of a career as a commercial pilot.


In addition to a salary, many airlines offer their pilots a range of benefits, including health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. These benefits can be worth tens of thousands of dollars per year and can greatly enhance a pilot's overall compensation package.

Career Advancement

Commercial pilots can advance their careers in several ways, including becoming a training pilot, a check airman, or a flight instructor. These positions often come with higher salaries and more responsibilities, allowing pilots to further increase their earning potential.

In conclusion, becoming a commercial pilot can be a rewarding and lucrative career choice for individuals who are passionate about aviation and have a strong commitment to safety. With the demand for air travel expected to increase in the coming years, the demand for commercial pilots is also expected to grow, making it an attractive career choice for those looking to enter the aviation industry. However, it's important to consider the costs of training and certifications, as well as the long hours and extended periods of time away from home, before pursuing a career as a commercial pilot.

by Yevheniia Osmakova

Was this helpful?