How Pilots Get Paid

Published: 04-07-2006
This week we answer a question from 17 year old Kyle from New Bruinswick who wants to know about pay guarantees for pilots at the airlines.

"...When it says that your flying hours garanteed a MONTH are only 60-80, will you still accumulate a total of 40 hours a week doing something else other than flying? If so, will you be getting paid the same as if you were flying, and what might you actually be doing? If you could answer these questions for me, it would be greatly appreciated..."

Thanks for the question Kyle, the concept of pay guarantees are widely misunderstood by the general public as it's often mistaken for hours at work. Because Pilots are compensated per flight hour under most airline contracts, pilot unions have negocitated a minimum monthly pay gaurantee, expressed in flight hours, in the event that airlines have seasonal fluctuations in block hours. The actual guarantee for each airline is available in the "airlines" section of this site, but in general ranges from 60-80 hours.

I mentioned before that there is a misconception by the general public as flight hours DO NOT equal hours at work and/or away from home. As I write this article, I'm in the middle of a 6 day trip around the Pacific Basin, my pay at the end of this 6 day trip (4 dateline crossings, and 3 layovers/sleep opportunites) will pay just shy of 35 flight hours. However, I'm away from home for about 140 hours with each of the 4 duty periods at about 12 hours. This month I'll fly two 6-day trips and one 3-day trip that will keep me away from home for around 335 hours.

The rates of pay for airline pilots reflect (or should) a pilot's availablity to the company, time away from base, and of course flying the airplane. A discussion of rates of pay, duty rigs, and scheduling are outside the scope of this article, but I promise to address it in the future.

So to answer your question, Pilot's can easily be in the service of their company well in excess of 40 hours per week, and well in excess of 160 hours per month (40 hours * 4 weeks). With the exception of corporate flight departments, most airline pilots will not have colateral duties in addition to the safe efficent operation of scheduled flights at their airline.

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