Bidding for routes and flights

Im not a lilot but am thinking of a career change.
49 yo i keep reading about bidding for routes and seniority gets the best…how does it all work…what is a crappy line example versus a good one…like.most things the devil is in the details… to be part of commercial airline like southwest…also what is an expected hourly rate for a new pilot at the southwest/delta level? How much does a per diem get you in additon to the hourly rate?

I keep hearing shortage, shortage, shortage but i hate to spend a 100k and then be left holding a bag worth nothing


First and foremost I recommend you spend some time browsing this forum as there are tons of threads on many of the questions you asked. That said here’s some quick and dirty answers:

  1. How it works is exactly how you say. You bid every month for a “line”. In the beginning you won’t even get a line but be in Reserve which means you’re on call. If you live in base that’s not bad but if you don’t it’ll mean hotels or crashpads and coming to work and often not even working. As you gain seniority you’ll be able to get more of what you want (types of trips, length of trips, days off etc) but that takes time. What constitutes a crappy line really depends on your preferences. I’m lazy and like easy short days but others like the longer days which yeilds more days off. If I got a line with all long trips I’d think it was lousy. For some it’s about the destinations but if you have family living in Boise that might be a great trip for you etc etc etc. Make sense? Also visit our Schedules section where you can see actual schedules and how they’ve changed over the years.

  2. Starting pay at most Majors right now is around $80k but goes to after that. Per diem varies but it’s averages $2-3hr and will maybe get you an extra $500mos.

  3. While senior Capts earn $400k+ you should know that starting at 49 you’ll never get there. There simply aren’t enough years left in your career. In time however you should(?) be able to get to the low-mid $200k. Obviously this is all contingent on you doing well in training, having a clean record and being hireable.



Here is a screenshot of my Sept bid award. Luckily I was able to recreate the entire thing, but this is what I was originally awarded. I am a new FO at Alaska.

As you can see, weekends and red eyes is what someone with my seniority can expect.

Before that I was bidding reserve. publishes each airline’s payscales, including per diem, benefits, etc. It is a good place to start.

If you choose to pursue aviation, while I understand that you will want a return on your investment, the “Is it worth it?” question is entirely subjective.

At your age you will have just enough time to make a good career at a regional or an LCC. If you were to make the jump to a major, you would likely only spend the last 5-10 years max there.