Becoming a successful pilot requires a lot of work and dedication, with pilots required to undergo extensive training to qualify, and pass certain tests every six months. As well as studying for these tests, commercial pilots must pass a medical examination every year.

According to the British Airline Pilots Association, a typical ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence) course will cost approximately £60,000 which usually does not include the price of accommodation and living expenses. “The course lasts for about 18 months and is extremely intensive, requiring a huge amount of effort and willpower to complete,” says the BALPA. However, many airlines require more than an ATPL before they will let you apply for a job. Quite often pilots find themselves having to train for additional “type ratings” which qualifies them to fly a particular type of airliner, and this course can cost around £25,000. To find out more about the training involved, read our article on how to become a pilot in the UK.

So how much do commercial pilots earn?

This greatly depends on the airline and the type of aircraft flown. Salaries tend to increase with each year of service with a company, says BALPA so even if you are initially paid a low wage, the situation may well improve after several years of employment.

Salaries vary according to the airline a pilot is employed with, the type of aircraft being flown and experience gained. The starting salary for a newly qualified first officer working for a small operation may be around £22,000 (or US $35,000).

Starting salaries for those in larger companies are higher at around £24,000 pa to £28,000 pa (US$38,000 to US$45,000).

Salaries for more experienced commercial pilots could range from £28,000 (UD$45,000) to £44,000 (US$70,000) in a first officer role. The starting salary for a captain with a medium-sized airline may range from £54,000 (US$87,000) to £75,000 (US$120,000), while those with the major operators could earn from £97,000 (US$156,000) to over £140,000 (US$225,000).

British Airways is one of the best airlines to fly for in terms of average salaries. Our calculations suggest that a long-haul pilot with lots of experience could well reach the £150,000 mark. Even some low-cost airlines like Ryanair can pay their senior captains up to £100,000.

Flight Duty Pay is additional pay that can affect monthly take-home, although not all airlines use this system. It varies from company to company but essentially Flight Duty Pay is an element of pay based on a pilot being at work, in addition to basic salary. Often this is taxed at a different rate to the main salary. Flight Duty Pay can be a flat rate per sector or an hourly rate and can be based on duty time or flight time.

It’s worth remembering that a pilot’s salary is often incremental, rising with each year of service within the company. And benefits and rewards should be taken into account too. These usually include a pension scheme, various allowances, health cover and discounted travel.

In the role of pilot, unusual working hours should be expected. The length of a working day varies depending on the company and route but can range from three to twelve hours. The start times of a day will often differ depending on the route, sometimes beginning in the early morning and sometimes late at night.

What is the average salary of a commercial pilot?

Industry estimates suggest that UK pilots can earn between £22,000 – £170,000 per year, depending on experience, airline and type of aircraft.

(Figures from

Small & medium twin-engine turboprop aircraft:

For example: Flybe, CityJet & Eastern Airways

First Officer: £22,000 – £40,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £3,000 flight duty pay)

Captain: £50,000 – £70,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £3,000 flight duty pay)

Executive Jet aircraft:

For example: NetJets, TAG Aviation, Ocean Sky

First Officer: £28,000 – £50,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £6,000 flight duty pay)

Captain: £50,000 – £95,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £7,000 flight duty pay)

Small & Medium – Short Haul Jet aircraft:

For example: Easyjet, Ryanair

First Officer: £35,000 – £60,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £8,000 flight duty pay)

Captain: £60,000 – £100,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £9,000 flight duty pay)

Large – Long Haul Jet aircraft:

For example: British Airways, Virgin Atlantic & Cathay Pacific

First Officer: £45,000 – £120,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £8,000 flight duty pay)

Captain: £80,000 – £170,000 basic pay (£2,000 – £13,000 flight duty pay)


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