By Riley Picket – SEP 29, 2022
SkyWest Airlines has just doubled pay for all pilots. The regional carrier struggling to retain and acquire new pilots during the current shortage has voted to nearly double pay for first officers and captains. First officers will start their careers at SkyWest, making $90 per flight hour. Captains will make $140 per flight hour. These numbers would have been incomprehensible for the regional airline market only a few years ago. SkyWest is marketing that new first officers will have the potential to earn $90,000 per year with this new pay rate.
The pay hike announcement came after a narrow vote at the airline. The previous starting rate for first officers was $47 per flight hour. The raise is an astronomical jump for the regional carrier. Historically, regional carriers offer the lowest pay in the airline industry in the US. In the US, large airlines such as Delta and United, commonly referred to as major airlines, outsource many of their smaller routes to third-party contract airlines known as regionals. SkyWest, for example, operates flights for Delta, United, Alaska, and American Airlines.
These regional airlines will typically sport the livery of the major airline they provide services for, but that is where the similarities end. Regionals own their own planes and have their own ground and maintenance teams, along with their flight and cabin crews. In this business model, the major carrier handles all the booking and scheduling, whereas the regional carrier simply operates the flight. These flights are typically flown from larger airports to smaller ones with enough demand to justify a route but not enough to fill a 150-seat aircraft.
The regionals typically fly aircraft with seating capacities between 50 and 80. SkyWest has a fleet of Bombardier CRJ200s, CRJ700s, CRJ900s, and Embraer ERJ175s. The smaller aircraft flown by regionals generate less revenue per flight than much larger aircraft as fewer tickets are sold. For this reason, regional airlines tend to pay pilots lower than all other airlines. Entry requirements are also the lowest at regional airlines as they only require pilots to meet FAA minimums and obtain an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATP) before joining the crew. Larger airlines also require this, plus additional flight experience.
These major airlines generally acquire their pilots from regional airlines. For this reason, regional airlines are often seen as stepping stones for most pilots to further their careers by giving them the experience needed to move on to a major airline. This model has worked well for both regional and major carriers for years. However, with the growing pilot shortage, majors have begun lowing their entry requirements and taking more and more pilots from the regionals. The regionals, however, must comply with the FAA 1,500 flight hour requirement for new airline pilots. This has led to an increase in pay. SkyWest hopes the pay rise will help attract new pilots and retain existing ones.
Not so friendly competition
Even with the pay raise, SkyWest can still not match the pay at the majors, but it has now entered the realm of the national carriers. These national carriers are situated between the regionals and majors in terms of pilot pay. National carriers include many budget airlines, such as Spirit and Frontier. Most national carriers still pay more than SkyWest, although the gap between the two is smaller than ever. Other regional airlines have also raised their pay dramatically. Horizon Airlines and Mesa Airlines are just a few other regionals raising wages to remain competitive. All other regionals are either in the process of raising pay or in the discussion process.
Drawbacks to higher pay
The pay raises are certainly a welcomed sight for pilots. However, for regional airlines, there will undoubtedly be consequences. The largest of which will be limited capacity. The larger expense will require airlines to limit their presence in many smaller communities that do not bring in large amounts of consistent revenue. Pilots being twice as expensive, it may not make financial sense to continue operations in many less frequented locations.
Journalist – Studying to become an airline pilot, Riley has a lifelong passion for aviation. He already has his private pilot certificate alongside an instrument rating. Based in The United States
The aviation industry appears to be entering a golden age for new pilots as we continue into the New Year. The generous compensation and retention programs of airlines such as Endeavor Air, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines that flies as Delta Connection, are evidence of this positive trend. The airline recently announced that it is beginning an $80,000 Pilot Retention Payment program to attract the best and brightest to its cockpits. With pilots earning more of the compensation, downtime and respect they deserve, it is an excellent time to enter this critical and esteemed profession – if you have what it takes.
Endeavor’s Plan to Hire and Retain the Best
Endeavor Air, which describes itself as evoking “an image of innovation, excitement and the adventure of a journey,” will now provide pilots hired between 2015 and 2018 the opportunity to earn $20,000 in retention payments per year for the first four years of employment – that’s up to $80,000 just in bonus compensation! This generous opportunity comes in addition to the company’s competitive compensation package. Endeavor Air states that new pilots will earn $44,000 in their first year thanks to this new bonus, and their earnings will go up each year with a fourth year salary totaling over $80,000. If you’re looking for even more incentive, Endeavor pilots are also given up to 15 days off every month to relax or earn additional income, and have the opportunity to take as many as 35 days of vacation throughout the year. New hires aren’t the only ones with an opportunity to earn additional compensation at the airline, though.
All current Endeavor pilots will have an opportunity to earn $2,000 for each new pilot they refer who successfully finishes the airline’s training program and joins the team.
What This Means for Prospective Student Pilots
Completing a flight training program, such as Coast Flight’s Airline Career Training (ACT) program, puts new pilots in an excellent position. There’s no denying that the airline industry is facing a shortage of pilots, and airlines like Endeavor are clearly in need of skilled new aviators to join their ranks. This pioneering retention program may be the most generous in the nation for regional pilots, but it isn’t the only one of its kind being offered at the moment. Other regional airlines such as Envoy Air, GoJet Airlines and Silver Airways have also announced signing bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $12,000 for new pilots.
With regional airlines going out of their way to attract new pilots, it looks like 2015 is an excellent time to begin training for a career in aviation.
Two of American Airlines’ regional airlines are increasing pay and bonuses for their pilots in an effort to step up recruitment as the industry grapples with a looming pilot shortage.
Irving-based Envoy Air and Dayton, Ohio-based PSA Airlines, both wholly owned subsidiaries of American Airlines Group, announced Wednesday they’re raising starting pay for new hires by as much as 50 percent, as well as expanding a bonus program worth as much as $35,000 put in place earlier this year.
Envoy Air, a subsidiary of American Airlines Group, will be nearly doubling the starting pay for new pilot hires! At about $38 per hour, a First Year Pilot can now make $58,000 or more, a dramatic increase to help bring in the next wave of Airline Pilots. Adding to the new incentive program is a First Officer Retention Bonus of $20,000 and a $5,000 bonus per pilot you refer.
New Hire Starting Pay Up 47% – Retention Bonuses Extended to All Pilots
Ric Wilson, the VP of Flight Operations summarized “Envoy’s new industry-leading starting pay – along with our up to $20,000 signing bonus, $20,000 First Officer retention bonus and guaranteed flow-through to American Airlines, without any further interview – means our pilots will be among the most highly compensated in the industry now and throughout their flying career.”
In addition to pay and bonuses, Envoy offers an unmatched total compensation package, including:
- American Airlines Group Profit Sharing
- 401(k) Plan with company match
- Free personal travel on American’s global network
- Life, health and disability benefits
- Preferred crew bases in Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago, with paid hotels for training and commuting
- Generous commuter policy
- Company paid iPads, Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check
- Free membership into the Known Crewmember (KCM) program to speed you through security
- A direct career path to a flying career with American Airlines without any additional interview required