Regional to major airline

How long after working for a regional airline can you transfer to a major airline?

I’ve heard 2-4 years. I’m not an Airline pilot “yet” but that’s what I’ve heard.



Training at ATP takes 7-months “Zero-to-Hero” and you come out with 245 hours in the airplane. That equates to roughly 16% of the way to your ATP-L which requires 1,500 hours, of that 25-hours may be used in simulator of the aircraft you’re being typed in.

Per the FAA, you may instruct up to 8-hours a day. In a perfect world where airplanes and weather are wonderful, you could do the remainder of your 1,200 hours in half a year. But let’s be realistic, you will probably instruct (if you choose the CFI path, which is the most utilized way to build time) average of 3-5 hours a day. And we have to also count on the weather and aircraft availability which can sometimes have days where you won’t be able to fly. When I was instructing at ATP, I saw instructors consistently averaging 20 hours a week. Myself, I always wanted to work and set standards high, so I averaged some weeks 30-40; and maybe that’s why my time as a CFI was only 13-months rather than 18-24 months. There have also been instructors that take longer, sometimes it depends on your work ethic and how much you’re willing to do.

I can’t speak from my exposure and experience of students going to airlines like the other mentors that have years of service, but I can say is the harder (but safe) you work, the shorter the timespan from student to airline. I will let the more seasoned respond to the regional to major, but I’ll add my two-sense from reading up on regulations from the ATM Knowledge Test (which I used Sheppard Air for) :slight_smile: .

Now Part 121 regulations at the airlines say you may not fly more than 100 hours per month, equating to no more than 1,000 per year.

The majors want to see PIC turbine time, though it’s preferred, there have been recent call-ups to the majors from those who have not yet gained PIC time because of covid and the pilot shortage. But who’s to say that continues to happen tomorrow, or the coming weeks, months, and years? And I think it’s safe to say we all know someone guy who made it to a major with minimal to no PIC time …


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You don’t transfer, you need to get hired (unless your Regional has a flow). How long can vary considerably from airline to airline. The average these days is 2-5yrs but that can of course.

To reference your other question having a degree puts you to the front of the line. Not having one puts you in back.



I would plan on 4-5 years. Typically major airlines like to see at least 1000 turbine PIC (under part 121 operations). In order for that to happen, it takes about 2 years as a First Officer to become eligible to upgrade to Captain. Then, another 2 years as Captain to gain the 1000 TPIC time.