Moving up

I understand everything is seniority based, i was just wondering how often in the majors that a job on the bigger planes comes available, and what your experience on the larger planes is? Do lower seniority pilots sometimes get on the bigger planes?


Everything at the airlines is seniority based. The mistake almost EVERYONE makes when thinking about equipment is that BIG planes are senior. There is no such thing as a “senior airplane”. Flying an A330 or 787 is no more difficult than flying a 717, 737 or even an RJ. It doesn’t require any additional skill or experience etc. I always smile when a friend finally gets their “dream ride” airplane and everyone congratulates them for finally “earning” that position and that they finally have the experience to “handle” the “heavies”. I have an EMB145 Type, DC-9 (717) and an A330 and the HEAVY Bus was by far the easiest plane to fly. So you may be thinking if that’s true why don’t the new guys get a crack at the BIG COOL airplanes? The answer is MONEY. Check any of the airline pilot salary tables and you’ll see that the big planes pay more than the smaller ones? Why? That’s a great question. Once upon a time someone decided that the more seats you have behind you the greater the responsibility so the more you’ll get paid (fun fact UPS doesn’t pay their pilots based on aircraft size but strictly on senior. So despite what you might think, the 747 isn’t the most senior plane at UPS). You must always remember that being junior doesn’t mean you can’t get what you want, it means you can’t get what’s popular. If something is popular by definition that means everyone wants it and since everyone can’t have it only the senior pilots can.

So let’s get back to your question. The answer is YES, sometimes junior pilots are awarded bigger airplanes. Why? Because while money is great it’s not everything. While most pilots initially think I want to fly BIG airplanes because they’re BIG and that’s cool, after you fly them (which I have) you realize big planes are really nothing more than big planes so once that itch is scratched it then becomes a question of what’s important to YOU. Now maybe the big plane is important to you (and that’s fine), maybe it’s the money, maybe it’s the destinations, maybe it’s days off, or any of a dozen other things. So here’s a real world example of what I’m talking about. Hawaiian Airlines (the airline fly for) flies 717’s, A321’s, B767’s, and A330’s. We have more A330’s then any of the other fleet types. When we got the A321’s many of the A330 pilots took a paycut to fly the smaller Airbus. Why? Because if you were mid to low seniority on the A330 you’d be considerably higher on the A321 which would give you a better schedule and better trips. Now we still have a lot of A330’s which need pilots. Our 717 and 767 pilots fly those planes for any number of reasons (including the diehards who maintain “if it ain’t a Boeing, I ain’t going”) and they don’t want to leave (even though the A330 is bigger and pays better). This created a vacancy on the A330 so for a few months we had brand spanking newhires going straight to the Queen of our fleet. Make sense?


It makes sense, and thank you for your explanation. Now, if i were at 5 years as a captain on the 717 and decided i wanted to go to the a330, i got it, would i go to 1 year on the a330 or 5 years on the pay scale?


You would stay at fifth year pay, that number never resets.