How to choose an airline?

Hello, I have somewhat of an odd question and I do not want it to be construed as being pretentious. I am simply curious as to why so many pilots opt to fly for carriers such as JetBlue, Virgin, Spirit, etc.? Is it really this difficult to get into an airline like Delta, United, or AA? Or is it just that it fits the personal life they want to live (family, city, etc.) and flying for a smaller airline that generally offers less pay makes this easier? I’m sure this sounds naive but I really do want to know what the other incentives may be to fly for a smaller airline when it was my original understanding that most people aim to fly for a larger airline with higher pay. Of the people you know or even yourself, was it the first choice to fly for say Delta (just an example) or was it not?


Some people chose to fly for the smaller airlines like JetBlue and Spirit because they like their bases. It also tends to be easier to get hired at these airlines as they are not considered to be top tier.

Some pilots at those airlines may have very well desired to go to one of the larger, legacy carriers, but for whatever reason never got the call. The best airline is the one that hires you.


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Flying for a Major airline is the pinnacle of this industry and yes it really is difficult to get there. BUT, that’s certainly not the only reason there are pilots flying for all the other carriers and no they’re not all miserable crying themselves to sleep at night asking “why not me?..whaaaaaa…”.

So why does anyone choose anything? I’m a Capt at a Major airline and make a very good salary as do my peers. One of my friends just bought a new 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, beautiful car. Cost him about $140k. I know pilots who drive BMWs and Benz’s, Tesla’s, Honda’s and Fords. Me I drive a 2001 Toyota Tacoma worth about $4k. Maybe I think it’s kinda cool, maybe I’m trying to demonstrate my detachment from material wealth or maybe I’m just cheap? My choice and my reasons.

My point is you can’t assume that everyone wants to go to the largest airline and fly the largest airplane because that’s what you want. Bottomline, IF/when you’re ever in a position to make this decision for yourself you need to do what’s best for you.



Thank you both for your replies. I’m glad to know that everyone is so different in their goals.