Release #: 16.07
March 09, 2016

Airline Pilots in Strong Supply for Right Career Opportunity

Seven lowest-paying U.S. regional airlines still offer first-year salaries at or below $25,000

WASHINGTON, D.C.––The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) maintains that U.S. regional airlines that dangle one-time hiring bonuses while continuing to offer extremely low first-year salaries are ignoring the truth about what it takes to attract qualified pilots to work at their airlines and stalling the real change that is needed to head off a serious U.S. pilot shortage in the future.

“New airline pilots know the difference between a one-time bonus and a permanent salary increase,” said Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA’s president. “While some regional airlines are offering temporary incentives to entice new pilots, these one-time payments may never happen again and new pilots know it. New pilots are looking for a stable salary, benefits, work-life balance, and job growth that will give them a promising career.” 

Even though many regional airlines have recently signed new contracts with their pilots, the salaries that create stable income for first-year pilots to provide for themselves and their families remain unacceptably low. Salary levels at the seven lowest-paying U.S. regional airlines still fall at or below $25,000 per year––far below the salaries other aviation careers offer and untenable in the face of the $175,000 or more that new pilots typically pay for their education.

“Thousands of individuals currently hold air transport pilot certificates in this country and many more are obtaining them every month, making it clear that there are plenty of qualified pilots available to fly for airlines that offer the right career opportunity,” said Capt. Paul Ryder, ALPA’s national resource coordinator.

While some in the industry have alleged that a pilot shortage is behind Republic Airways’ recent bankruptcy filing, the airline’s own testimony refutes this assertion. In its bankruptcy filing, Republic stated that the company is restructuring to operate a single aircraft type and eliminate out-of-favor aircraft, rather than to reduce newly improved pilot salaries, which Republic’s president has publicly said is helping the company to retain its pilots.

Similarly, a study released this week by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) regarding pilot supply, which has been touted by regional airline representatives, contains numerous flaws in its data, methodology, and conclusions. Funded by organizations to advance a specific policy agenda that would weaken pilot training regulations, the study did not include all stakeholders, was not independently reviewed, and attempts to establish linkages with policy changes that are not supported by the data it contains.

“Without peer evaluation and independent review, the AABI pilot supply study fails to hold any scientific value and is yet another attempt by some in the industry to distract from the real issues that U.S. regional airlines must tackle to expand the pool of qualified pilots in the future,” said Capt. Ryder.

The rhetoric around the Republic bankruptcy and the flawed conclusions of the AABI report demonstrate how a few airline interests are attempting to hold out a false current pilot shortage as an excuse to weaken safety standards and cut corners on pilot training. ALPA recognizes that, while an individual may hold the licenses and certificates necessary to become an airline pilot, there is no substitute for the unique skills, judgment, and decision-making abilities that can only be gained through training and experience.

The FAA’s first officer qualification and training requirements were prompted by Congress in 2010 following the investigation of multiple fatal airline accidents in which the pilots’ lack of flight experience and training were identified as factors in the accidents. The safety-focused FAA rules requiring increased flight experience and better training were the result of an industry-wide effort led by representatives of regional airlines, which have had years to prepare for the rules taking effect.

“Certain segments of the U.S. airline industry need to stop making excuses and get to work making the permanent changes to pilot salary and career advancement that are necessary to attract the strongest pilot candidates who meet the highest training standards,” said Capt. Canoll. “ALPA will never allow the safety of our passengers, crews, and cargo to be compromised for the benefit of a few airlines’ profit sheets.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 52,000 pilots at 30 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or