Asian Conversations - an online magazine to explore Asia's future

Do pilots have cash to flash?

Pilots have attested that they earn much less than what people generally assume. While the general public tends to believe pilots make around US$40,000 per year, pilots aver this is far from the truth.

In 2007, the Arbitration Court in Singapore ruled that as of May 2007, the first pilots to fly super jumbo Airbus A380s on Singapore Airlines would earn basic salaries of about S$700more than their counterparts flying Airbus B747-700s, who as a baseline earned about S$10,000 per year.

In April 2012, Hong Kong Airlines fired nine pilots who refused to sign contracts that stated captains with less than 3,000 hours of flying time would receive HK$30,000 per month, and those with more than 3,000 hours would earn HK$40,000. As of April 2013, Air India pilots were not paid their flying allowances – responsible for up to 80 percent of their total salary – since December 2012. Additionally, Air India pilot salaries were cut up to 15 percent, as approved by the cabinet.

The growth of low-cost airlines, however, may cause an increase in pilot salaries. In other words, though they may be low-cost airlines, they do not have low-cost pilots. Budget airlines such as Tiger Airways, SpiceJet and AirAsia have grown rapidly over the past decade or so, and this may continue to cause sharp rises in pilot salaries.

With the recent recessions, more people are looking to fly on budget airlines and, as a result, these airlines will become more profitable. Bottom line, the Wall Street Journal says, more profitable companies can afford to pay their workers more. Makes sense. – Anjali Menon