I’ve researched ATP for a while, I’ve obtained my private pilot’s license, and I think I’m ready to pull the trigger on applying. Looking towards the future, I was wondering if anyone had any insight to the pay and benefits instructors at ATP receive. I’ve noticed that ATP themselves will post a job that lists a range of benefits including medical, dental, vision, and PTO, and that pay will be in the area of $50,000. However, I’m seeing many reviews that ATP uses a loophole to call their employees independent contractors and avoid all of what they are actually advertising in terms of benefits, and many are saying that the only way to be paid a livable salary is to work 80+ hour weeks. What should I realistically expect? If the reviews are true, then I’m struggling to see how people survive taking out an $80,000 student loan followed by two years of barely being able to afford rent and no benefits.
This is not a loophole, its the way this industry works. ATP does pay its instructors as independent contractors and they’re free to take advantage of the tax benefits that entails. Flight instructing is an entry level position to a career that can earn someone $400k+. ATP pays what’s standard in the industry for such a position. For many years companies paid nothing or actually charged the pilot for the privilege to fly for them to build time.
That said obviously depending on your personal situation this can be tough and may require sacrifice. Many of the Regionals offer Tuition Reimbursement which can help significantly. The instructor position is a perk ATP offers and it’s yours to take or not (IF you’re offered it). The fact is getting an instructor position isn’t guaranteed and it’s actually very competitive. ATP frequently has pilots who trained elsewhere applying, because few other schools offer the opportunity to build time as quickly. This is one if the reasons ATP has as many airline partnerships and its students continued to get hired before others. Many who pass on the position have also tried to return after reality sets in. Regardless, again, if you’re offered a position and can do better elsewhere then you’re free to do so.
Thank you for responding. When you say that ATP pays what is standard, is there an actual dollar amount available to represent this? From your response it does sound as though the job listings where they advertise benefits are inaccurate, so thank you for clearing that up.
Also, I know that these posts can get many views from people looking to make major changes to their life, so I feel obligated to address the loophole bit. A contractor is a business owner that sells their services under the terms of contract rather than become an employee. The advantages are that the person can act as an independent business with tax write offs and is free to sell services to multiple entities. A loophole is when ambiguity in a law is exploited to avoid the intent of the law. Assuming that CFIs’ only expense (for a write off) is gas and they are not providing CFI services to others outside of ATP, this is undoubtedly a loophole. I appreciate knowing this is the industry standard though as it will give me a better idea of what to expect, so thank you for helping me out with that.
I’m not an accountant nor will I debate the definition of the word loophole. What is certain is the instructor job is a major and very sought after perk but what’s key is that ATP is upfront about the terms and it’s yours to accept or decline if it’s offered.
As for the specifics this should help.
Paying Flight Instructors as independent contractors is a long and well established practice in the industry. Like it or not, it is the way most of the industry works. ATP is a huge company, if they were exploiting a loophole that would have been corrected decades ago.
It is absolutely possible to be an ATP CFI and receive benefits. Those ATP flight instructors that participate in the Envoy Cadet Program are treated as employees of Envoy and receive benefits through Envoy, while instructing for ATP. Quite frankly, I think it is a great program and I would definitely participate if I was in that stage of my career: Envoy Cadet Program - Overview, Eligibility, Enrolling / ATP Flight School