Release #: 14.56
July 31, 2014

ALPA: No U.S. Airline Pilot Shortage

As Congress Flies Home for August Recess, Regional Pilot Starting Pay Remains Rock-Bottom

WASHINGTON––A new fact sheet from the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) shows starting pay for regional airline pilots remains rock-bottom while hundreds of qualified pilots are furloughed and others choose to work abroad, making clear that, while adequate numbers of qualified pilots are available, the pilot pay shortage is a serious hurdle in regional airlines’ ability to attract and retain them.

“Congress is flying home for its August recess today, but summer travel is on the minds of Americans across the country, many of whom will fly on a regional airline that pays its first-year pilots as little as $14,600 a year,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president. “The rock-bottom starting pay offered by regional airlines has become a serious deterrent for anyone considering becoming an airline pilot or, if they are already qualified, for choosing to work in the profession in the United States.”

A new ALPA fact sheet titled “Airline Pilot Shortage? None Exists. It’s a Pilot Pay Shortage,” reveals the starting salary at the 10 lowest-paying U.S. regional airlines, details the education and training investment required for new pilots to enter the profession, and contrasts the first-year salary figures with those of other professions.

"When I decided to become a pilot I knew that a major commitment in both time and money would be required in order to reach my goal,” said Capt. Brendan Cantwell, a regional airline pilot and ALPA member. “New pilots entering our field need to be compensated commensurate with the level of training, education, and expertise that the flying public expects whenever they board an aircraft."

ALPA’s new fact sheet points out that more than 700 ALPA pilots are currently on furlough in North America. In addition, hundreds of other qualified airline pilots work abroad at airlines such as Emirates Airline, China Eastern Airlines, and Etihad Airways because these companies offer compensation that is commensurate with the pilots’ skills and experience. Many of the pilots working elsewhere would prefer to fly for U.S. airlines were they able to earn compensation commensurate with their experience and had confidence in a long-term career.

“Some in the regional airline industry persist in falsely promoting an alleged pilot shortage as an excuse to cancel flights, drop routes, and attempt to roll back critical safety legislation and regulations,” continued Capt. Moak. “In truth, not only were the regional airlines fully involved in, and in some cases led, the effort to create these new regulations, but they also had more than three years to prepare to implement them.”

ALPA’s new fact sheet explains that several accidents, including the Colgan Airways tragic accident near Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009, helped prompt the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop new pilot fatigue and first officer qualification and training rules. During the rulemaking process, the FAA invited industry, labor, and government to work together on the effort to enhance safety. Not only were the airlines fully involved and supportive of the process, but they also led some of these efforts, such as the First Officer Qualifications Aviation Rulemaking Committee, and had more than three years to prepare to implement the new regulations.

“While a pilot shortage does not exist today, the real solution for preventing one in the future is for the U.S. and Canadian governments to adopt strong, pro-airline policies that level the playing field for their airlines and enable them to compete and prevail in global air transportation,” said Capt. Moak. “Consistently profitable and stable airlines will allow our industry to offer the salary, benefits, and job security that will create careers and retain and attract the most qualified pilots.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 51,000 pilots at 31 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703/481-4440 or