First Year FO Salary

So I ran across this website for a SkyWest salary chart. Is this pretty typical to be paid seemingly so low? I crunched the numbers and it doesn’t even seem like a livable wage.

$46.82 x 76 hours/month = $3559 gross monthly income

Less approx $400 for medical/vision/dental

Equals Taxable Income of $3159

Less 15% for income taxes = $473

Adjusted Monthly Net Income = $2686

$1000 approx student loan repayment
$1200 typical apartment rent in the Phoenix market
$400 water/sewer/trash/phone/internet

At this point, I only have $86 left in the calculation and I haven’t even gotten to food, vehicle expense, insurance, hygiene items, misc expenses, entertainment, recreation, savings, etc…,

And it doesn’t appear to get much better with second year and third year salaries. So the question is: is it typical to be “beans and riceing” it for years after finishing school? Do most 1st-3rd year FO’s work a second job to make ends meet? This isn’t a matter of not getting to live in the lap of luxury anymore. This is more a matter of not being able to pay for the bare essentials.

Thx for any insight!


Most of the Regionals are now offering hiring bonuses which help, but yes, first year pay at the Regionals is far from great. This is an entry level position and pays as such. The reality is the pay has actually improved greatly. About 5yrs ago, before the pilot shortage, first year pay was half of that and when I started in 2005 it was under $20k. When we were in training and complained our instructors told us that they had to pay for their training and first year pay was minimum wage.

As for making ends meet most pilots don’t fly 75hrs, they fly closer to 90 which makes a difference. That and the bonuses all help but no its not easy.

Long and short that’s the price of admission to a dream job that eventually can have great returns but it definitely requires some sacrifice. Whether it’s worth it or not is up to the individual. Some suck it up and realize there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, some moan and grown (and continue to do so throughout their careers), some quit and post videos about how it’s all a big lie. Never ceases to amaze me how so many people can be in the same position and have such different perspectives.




I don’t know what you are accustomed to paying for utilities, internet and phone, but $400 seems a bit high for a renter. I live in the Seattle area and I have paid anywhere from $0-100 for utilities and internet (not including phone) as a renter. For a long time I was sporting an iPhone 6 too.

Still, the rest of your calculations I would say are fairly accurate except for the fact that that is the absolute minimum one could expect to make. The majority are able to make more by picking up trips or factoring in performance based bonuses.

When I first moved to Seattle my rent was $800 (all inclusive). Then I found an even better deal for $450 plus shared util.

That was back in 2017. I don’t think I could find a deal as sweet as those anymore, but I’m sure you could find something affordable in your area if you look hard enough. I used company classifieds to find my first two apartments. A lot of newer airline employees are all looking for ways to save money wherever they can.

As for side jobs, some have them. I would say the majority do not though. As a new hire, if you need to make more money it’s usually more beneficial to pick up extra trips than to spend time doing something else on the side.



A few adjustments to your math but overall yes, it will still be tight as a junior FO. Reserve is the worst with minimum guarantee and hardly any per diem unless you get called to fly. However, as a line holder with 90 hours of flying its significantly better.

Just for a rough estimate, as a single beneficiary all expenses are about $180 per month, $90 a paycheck. That includes dental, vision, medical, accident insurance and 7 day STD. You also need to add per diem in to your income. At Skywest it’s $2 per hour for each hour you’re away from base. A typical 4 day trip is about 75 hours away, so $150 per trip. Multiply that over a month schedule of 90 hrs and that’s about another $1000 that is not taxed.


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Here is every paycheck I received at SKW out of ORD once on the line (this does not show training pay from April-July 2019)
In Nov 2021 I started getting paid as a capt.

Chris F


Was majority of this as a FO?

The last 4 months was at Capt pay (last 4 months was also high due to bonus payout and cashing in my vacation/user time upon leaving for the big yellow bus).
I lived in base and picked up a lot of OT trips in 2019 until Covid slowdown in April 2020 (about 100-130credit for 20 days work). Once you get a line you can probably expect a busy schedule of 17-19days flying for about 90 credit hours.
Anything originally scheduled over 87 credit pays 130% too.

Is that specific to where you were working? 130% after 87 hours? Just a curiosity question.

Very transparent, thanks!
I’d always wondered why 40-50k was always quoted when my (likely quite inaccurate) spreadsheets estimating pay were 60-70k.

@Adam @Tory @Hannah , thanks for the insight. The accountant in me wants to plan every dime, but I think a career change like this requires a bit of faith and good luck as well. It speaks volumes to the credibility of the program that you all are honest instead of fluffing-up unrealistic salary hopes. At least I know what I’m getting myself into. Others would say I’m crazy for doing this, but I feel crazy staying at my accounting job and staring at spreadsheets all day.

@Cforero7 thx for posting your checks. Not bad at all! I’d say totally doable if I landed in your same boat. Your spreadsheet reminds me that no matter what, I’ll never be able to get away from them! Lol!

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Yes, this is in the pay agreement between SkyWest and the pilot group. Every airline will have different agreements, with different loopholes and asterisks*.

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Also keep in mind, don’t chase the shiny brand new airplane, don’t make your decision on that, instead search for the one that gives you the best quality of life.
Its a 3-5 year beans and rice sacrifice, then after you start holding a line, things starts improving. If you are true to your dream and money is not a factor go for it. You won’t get rich, but will be able to live a decent life.
There are other jobs that will g give you better pay, but again be honest with yourself if this is what you really want.


I respectfully disagree with you. Listen, everybody likes different things, has different priorities and motivations. If someone wants to chase the shiny new plane, the money, whatever, that’s their decision and it’s fine. To each their own.

Besides, we need those people so we can chase the QOL :wink:


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