Seniority and Moving Up the Ladder

Hello everybody,
I was reading about the seniority system here and am still not fully grasping it all. Is your ability to move up based solely on years of service? I read about how when positions open and how you can bid for them and what not. But what allows you to occupy that particular position comes back to seniority correct?
In regards to my first question, is performance a consideration? What goes into the whole process?

If it is strictly seniority, why is this viewed as the best approach? For example, in other industries you can move up based on performance or other various things that may separate yourself from the rest of the pack. What are the main benefits of this system?

Thank you,
-Austin B.


Yes, your ability to move up is based strictly on seniority. The difference between aviation and other industries is that in aviation nobody sets themselves apart. We all pass the same checkrides and perform to the same standards, everyday. If somebody doesn’t they receive additional training and could eventually be let go, but the theory is that all pilots are trained the same and fly the same. That standardization is what allows us to get in a cockpit with somebody we do not know and fly across the country together. I know exactly what to expect from him and he knows exactly what to expect from me.


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To be very clear and very to the point SENIORITY IS EVERYTHING at the airlines, PERIOD. Whether this is best or not frankly is a moot point because that’s how it is and it’s not going to change.

As for benefits here’s my personal take. First, it eliminates favoritism. While management could in theory say they were advancing based on performance, they could also use it as a means to advance for favoritism or other factors. Using seniority keeps things fair. Second you have to look at what we do. For the airlines to exist the flying public MUST perceive that the airlines are as safe as possible. For an airline to single out some pilots as “better”, that implies that others are worse. Would you want to fly on a plane flown by those pilots? If there was an accident or incident how would they explain the plane was flown by them? By treating us all as equal the airline is also sending a message that EVERY pilot is trained and performs at the same level. And that’s how it should be.



Great, thank you both for clearing that up!

-Austin B.

Anytime, let us know what other questions you have.