Real Answers from Real Pilots

Average time to move from the right seat to the left seat

What’s the average time for a pilot to be promoted from a first officer to a captain in major airlines?

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Marwan,

There really is no average as it depends on the aircraft, base, and even the economy. Pre-Covid Delta pilots were holding NYC B717 Capt in less than 2yrs but ATL A350 Capt could take over 20. Other aircraft are anywhere in between.

What it will look like when you’re ready is anybody’s guess.

Adam

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Like Adam said, it depends on many factors and also what it is that you want. There are senior and junior bases and aircraft. If you’re just looking for the quickest upgrade then I’d say the average is 3-5 years.

Tory

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Marwan,

It took nine years for me to be able to hold Captain, but during that time my airline went through the 2008 financial crisis, the change in retirement age from 60 to 65 (meaning very few retirements for five years), and a merger with another major airline. Typically we see upgrade times around five years, but these pilots will be on reserve for some time as more senior pilots decide to upgrade and come in on top of them.

Chris

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