Airlines vs private jet companies

I know many of you are pilots of major airlines but I wanted your opinion on private jets. I’m interested in comparing the career path of going to the airlines or going to private jet companies.
(example: Net Jets). Is it a requirement to first work for an airline to have an opportunity to work for a private jet company?

Thank you!


If you’ve been reading the forum, just the other day Sergey (former ATP student and instructor) got hired with NetJets (A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step). It’s very different flying and there are pros and cons to both.

As far as the path there is no requirement to fly for an airline first. As with any job you need to meet the experience requirements. Thing is the Regionals need pilots bad so it’s an easy gig to get and they also offer the opportunity fly alot and build time fast. So while it’s not a requirement, it is a route many pilots take to get the “better” corporate jobs. There are of course entry level corporate jobs but they are harder to find.



You do not need to first go to the regionals to fly for a corporate operator, but many people do as the regionals are usually most accepting of new pilots.

I myself was never interested in going the corporate route. I like the predictability of flying for an airline, like the type of flying airlines do and like flying big airplanes. That being said, I know many people that have gone the corporate route and love it. To each their own.

Hannah used to fly for a corporate operator, I am sure she will chime in here soon.


Thank you for that! That certainly helps. Is that similar with cargo planes? I was looking into that and I assume it’s relatively similar to corporate companies where as you don’t need to do regional first but that it helps? Or could you treat it as an airline and interview with Fed Ex or UPS as a CFI?


Pilots jobs with UPS and FedEx are some of the most sought after jobs in the industry. Pilots that are hired for those jobs typically have thousands of hours at the regionals first, have college degrees, and spotless records.

Most of the cargo airlines are not home based, but have more traditional bases like passenger airlines do.


So there are a lot of differences flying 121 vs 135. Here are a few:

  1. Home basing- your home is your base. You get a full fare airline ticket for your commute to the airplane on your first day of your work block and a ticket home on your last day. You can live anywhere and not worry about how you’ll get to work on time.
  2. Block scheduling- no bidding! Bidding (for some) can be a headache that comes at the same time every month. Instead, you’re on a set block schedule… 7 days on 7 days off, 8 on 6 off, 13 on 12 off… there are a lot of different varieties. Basically you can set your schedule on your iPhone and repeat bi-weekly and find out if you have Christmas off two years from now. Its typically a longer work block being away from home but also a longer block of days off when you get home. Also its predictable.
  3. Hotel points/airline miles- this seems insignificant but it really adds to your yearly income. Airlines get discounted rates on hotels which generally means pilots don’t get to accrue points from there. In the 135 world, they are booked on company cards so you’re able to accrue all the hotel stay rewards. You’ll be diamond/platinum status in no time and by year end, are able to book week-long all inclusive stays with just a fraction the points you’ve accrued. Same goes for airline miles. Its the soft income that really makes a difference over time.
  4. Initially higher pay - regionals are not known for having good pay right off the bat. Generally you can make regional captain pay as a first year FO at a major 135 charter operator. Per diem is also about $60 a day instead of $2/hr from time away from base that regionals pay. So over an 8 day trip, you make $480 of per diem instead of about $350 depending on report and release times.

You don’t have to go to the regionals if you want to work in 135. Every operator has their own hiring requirements, but generally the ATP mins you work to achieve for 121 are sufficient to be hired for an entry level FO position at most charter operators. Hope this helped!



Hannah. I have a few questions regarding Fractional companies or private in general.
I spoke with a flex jet pilot today at my super small non towered airport today, saw him flying over and Just knew I had to go to the airport and talk to him. The questions I have are, do you enjoy the airlines more then when you flew charter? Do you feel more job security at the airlines and better QOL then at a major charter/ fractional company? Some concerns we talked about were, an airline shutting down a base and you’ve been there 15+ years, you’ll have to get up and move or either go back to commuting, which would definitely suck. I’m sure y’all heard about one of the legacy’s that closed there flight attendant base recently and it’s been there 25 years I believe what I was told, seems awful to have to get up and move your family or decide to commute after being home that long. Me personally, I like the idea of living in Florida and working for American one day considering there the only legacy with a base here. Long ways away, but that’s the dream anyhow. But if the base closed 3 weeks after I got hired, then I would have to think of new plan. Totally out of my control, but could be a concern. Why I ask, is because the pilot I spoke with was with American for 15 years, and left for flex jets because of the quality of life it offered? I figured after 15 years he could of chose a great QOL at American but I guess not? Is the first 10 years of life with airline really that bad with all the reserve flying you do and moving from base to base for upgrades, etc.
Last question, considering the airports are always full, and hardly no seats available, is getting your dad, mother, wife or kids on the plane with you really that hard because there’s no seats available?
I like the idea of being able to get all the points for the hotels/ when you commute to work, so then you can have tickets available for the whole family when y’all do decide to take a vacation.

Long post, just a lot of questions. I reckon the more you network, the more you find out. Ever since thinking about being a pilot and now fixing to start this career, I’ve always wanted to go to the airlines, but being able to commute the day of and live anywhere with no penalty is pretty awesome. If a base was to shut down, you would be grand fathered in or if you had to move bases, you still live at the same home.

Thank you for y’all’s time and I understand if you don’t want to respond to all the questions. Just a thought I have had since talking to Multiple fractional pilots as of late.


I have never heard of a major airline pilot leaving for a fractional. Ever, and certainly not after fifteen years. I am thinking that much more likely, this person flew for “American Airlines Group” which is codeword for an AA regional airline.

Your first ten years might vary, but I was only on reserve for a few months at Continental and never once forced to change bases. Nobody can force you to change bases so that you can upgrade. It is always your prerogative to stay in your base unless the airline is shrinking. Something about this story is just not adding up to me.

It can be tough to get a large family on a flight for free, but it does happen. This past summer I got my kids all on a flight to ORD, but I bought tickets home.


It seemed weird to me as well, but that’s just what he told me. I assume you can avoid reserve after your first time of holding a line, if your willing to stay at your base as an FO or even a captain until your eligible to upgrade to more money aircraft without having to be on reserve? Can you decide to either chase the money and have move a lot of bases, reserve quite a bit, have a terrible schedule, etc, vs hold off on upgrades until you get what you want and always have a pretty good schedule a good few years after being able to hold a line? Obviously holidays go more senior, my thought for QOL is just more days off in between vs only having two days off and then if you commute, that’s basically no days off.
Do you think times will be a little easier in the future to provide your family with free flights to far away destinations (minus taxes) or have the airlines grown so much it will always be hard?

What is airline pilots thoughts on bases being shut down after many many years of being open? For you and commuters, I guess it really doesn’t matter but for someone that lives in base, it could put a major damping on things. Do legacy’s often close bases or hardly ever?


As Chris said, an airline will never make you upgrade, change planes or bases. That’s entirely up to you and what your seniority will hold. A friend of mine is very senior to me and could easily hold Capt on any plane he wants. He’s got a business that makes him ALOT of money but simply likes to fly at likes the benefits. He’s the number 1 FO on the most junior plane we have. He gets the trips he wants, the days off he wants etc etc. His choice. Others chase the plane and the money. That’s theirs and it’ll be yours as well.

How busy air travel and seat capacity will be on the future is anybody’s guess and unless you have a crystal ball there’s no way of knowing so it’s not something Id worry about.

As for bases shutting down while it happens, it doesn’t happen often. Read your post, this AA FA base is closing after 25yrs, does that sound like something that happens alot? It doesn’t. On the flip side I have a friend who flies corporate and was based in NJ where he built his home and his life. They decided to move to FL. He had to move or quit, there was no other option.


Nothing in the world is promising. So I guess you have to weigh your options and figure out what’s best for you and your family… few years away, but networking on the way should give me a better idea of what’s to come. Ever since wanting to fly, I’ve wanted to be a airline pilot, but then you hear of the horror stories and all the uncertainty while trying to upgrade the quickest, reserve life, low seniority. Etc. But all things come with sacrifices and that’s something I’ll have to figure out as time comes.

Thank you both for your responses.

I hear these horror stories too, but I think it is often a matter of perspective. Now I will freely admit to being very lucky in my career progression, but I simply have not experienced all of these negative stories that I read on the internet. Of course there have been periods where the flying was better than others, but it has never been very bad. I would still take this over a traditional job any day.



Comparing the two jobs is like comparing apples to oranges. The only thing in common is that you’re flying airplanes.

It’s more a matter of what you personally prefer plus what your specific circumstances are… say you live in the middle of no where in the country, only care about having the maximum days off and want quality of life improvements as soon as possible. Well then I’d say a big charter company may be the best move. I say this because 1). You’re home based so it’s the companies problem getting you to and from work. 2). Block scheduling you get 6-8 days off in a row after every rotation and 3). you can make $70-$100k as a brand new FO with a full flying schedule, no reserve. On the flip side, you also work 6-8 days on in a row every rotation and as nice as the initial pay is, there are smaller raises through the years with a cap on the max pay that’s nearly half that of an airline pilot. There’s no seniority or bidding for a schedule which is nice when you’re the junior guy but when you’re senior and still working holidays because it’s just “how the calendar falls” you’re not going to be so happy.

Everything good about being an airline pilot is about patience. Yes you’re going to start out the junior guy, with a horrible schedule and making nothing but if you have vision and patience you will one day be the senior guy, with a great schedule and making more money than you can imagine flying the biggest planes all over the world.

Job security is a mute argument. A charter company can just as easily go under putting you on the street as an airline has furloughs.

The real question is, what kind of fruit do you like? The apples or the oranges? Meaning, what are your priories and which type of flying job fits those the best…


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A neat way to look at it Hannah. All In all, I’m definitely willing to sacrifice many years of reserve life, upgrading at regional, then turn around and do it all over again at the majors(hopefully). Obviously no promises. I like the seniority part of the airlines. Once you build enough seniority, it seems as if you can definitely choose your schedule and if you commute, make sure you don’t have only couple days off. Plus, the pay is tremendous. Networking will be key, hopefully I’ll have the opportunity for both, and when the time comes, I’ll have a lot more information, and decide then.

Thank you all!

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