Is retiring at the Regionals a thing?

Most of the people I talk to always talk about the major airlines as the final goal, but is staying at a regional airline a choice that might be a good decision?


Some don’t have the desire to fly for a major. For some this is a second career and they’re perfectly happy with the lifestyle.
Some are in their 50’s or 60’s and for them it’s just not feasible.
Sometimes all hiring stops for long enough that by the time hiring picks up again some regional pilots don’t want to give up their quality of life to start at the bottom of the seniority list again.

Everyone that has decided to stay at a regional has their reasons. Some by choice. Others by a series of events that no one could have predicted.


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I know a number of pilots who have made that decision. Whether or not it’s a good one is something for each individual to decide.

There definitely can be some advantages. In general there’s more movement since people do tend to leave. That means fairly rapid advancement compared to the Majors. The pilots I know who stayed are at the top of the seniority list. They fly the plane they want at the base they want and get the days off they want, all of which is pretty nice. In my mind the 2 biggest draw backs are pay and more importantly instability. While those pilots are senior and many are instructors and check pilots making pretty good money (low $100ks), they’ll never see the $3-400k pilots at the Majors can. That’s not a bad living and many are fine with it.

To me it’s really the instability that’s the issue. Regionals don’t sell their own tickets. They sell their seats to the Majors and that’s means they need to keep their pencils REALLY sharp. Every few years the Regional contracts with the Majors must be renegotiated and the Regional that was on top may find themselves on the bottom. Compass is a great example. Compass was originally part of NWA and things were pretty good. When Delta and NWA merged they were then part of Delta and did a fair amount of Delta’s flying till Delta figured they’d but them loose and they became part of TSA. They remained mid pack for a while but had trouble competing, lost some flying but continued chugging along till this pandemic kicked it. That was the final straw and not they’re gone. Same happened to TSA and Comair a few years back. That’s actually that got me motivated to leave my Regional ExpressJet. I was there 9yrs and was actually quite fat, dumb and happy. I was on a hotel shuttle with a super senior Comair Capt. Word was that Comair was having terrible negotiating a new contract and Delta was threatening to pull all their flying. I asked the Capt how he was doing, he sighed and said “I’m 62, I’ve been here forever, I just need another 3 yrs and I’m fine”. Comair folded 2 weeks later. I freaked and said it’s time to get out of Dodge!

Are there pilots who have and will spend their careers at Regionals and feel it was a good decision? Sure, but most will find themselves sweating a little more than others.



Thank you, for the insight I was just wondering because everyone always just talks about moving on to the majors.

Thank you, the situations of these airlines is something I never knew. It really helps to have this info.


I have known several pilots that chose to finish out their careers at the regionals. I for one do not think this is a good idea, unless the pilot is much older when they get hired at said regional. The majors simply offer better job protection, better benefits and of course better salary. Beyond that, they are more stable than the regionals as they are not beholden to some mothership for their directions and business plans.

That being said, a senior captain at a regional can make a fairly nice living while also having a pretty decent schedule. So for some, the choice to stay at the regionals makes sense.


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