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How to improve pilot salaries: Try tipping

A lot has been written about low pilot salaries recently.  Especially the salaries paid to regional pilots.  How can anyone live on $20,000 a year, especially when they have $80,000 in pilot-related school costs to pay off?

We, the passengers on commercial airlines, are partially responsible.  We demand the right to fly coast to coast for $99.  Airlines have little wiggle room in managing fixed costs, such as fuel and maintenance.  Where they have room to drive down costs is with labor.  So they do.  The FAA may require minimum hours to pilot a plane, but it doesn't require minimium pay.

So here's an easy answer.  Tip the crew at the end of the flight.  We tip cab drivers, doormen, and waiters.  So why not the professionals who have the most important mission of all: to protect our lives.

A nutty idea?  Think about how much better the flight attendant service might be.  And if every passenger on a 100-seat regional jet tips $10, a crew of four will pocket an extra $250 a flight.  Not exactly chump change.

Let's face it: you probably paid $10 for the cup of Starbucks latte near Gate D5.

If the airlines aren't going to step up, we should.


10 Responses to “How to improve pilot salaries: Try tipping”

  1. You're sweet: ) What a nice idea...but the airlines don't allow us to accept tips, we can if the customer "insists" but somehow I don't think passengers are going to start tipping. Especially, $10 when they'll actually chose another airline if the ticket price is a $5. difference! Amazing but true!

    Also, be assured all though not right that they can't make ends meet at the beginning the pay does get better for most pilots and flight attendants at most airlines.We're not all starving: )

    Thanks again, love the post!

  2. betterthannojob. Says:
    May 22nd, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    let's face it, tips are just a courtesy not a requirement. In many other countries, its impolite to accept tips. Comparing waitresses to the flight crew is just not right. Many waitresses (I used to be one) are pay 2 to 3 dollars an hour, they need the tips for a living, I don't think the the flight attendants are pay 3 dollars an hour. So tip better the next time you are at a restaurant. Also, they get benefits where waitresses and taxi drivers don't. Many don't have insurance and etc. And the there salaries go up every year, its not like they are stuck with that same salary every year. As for tuition, I think anybody that goes to school have to deal with that. If its such a bad job there wouldn't be people vieing for the job.

  3. Matt Johnson Says:
    May 22nd, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Virtually every regional airline crew would make substantially more money if their employer paid them nothing at all and they worked solely for tips from passengers. At average pay rates, a regional First Officer will be paid $45 for a 90 minute flight before taxes. The captain will make about $90, and the flight attendant about $30. If every passenger on a 50-seat regional flight tipped even $5 on their way out the door--AND THE AIRLINE PAID THEM NOTHING--that'd still be an instant 50% pay raise for the crew over what they make now. THAT is how bad it is.

    But pay isn't the real issue here, rest and crew work schedules is. Most regional crews have a workday of between 12-16 hours, frequently with a federal minimum of 8 hours between workdays. That 8 hours doesn't mean they get 8 hours of sleep, because the time spent riding the shuttle to & from the airport, having a meal, showering, etc comes out of that 8 hours. Thus, on an 8-hour layover, most crew members are lucky to get maybe 6 hours of sleep--that is, IF they're able to fall asleep the moment head hits pillow, and their hotel isn't next to the freeway or train tracks, etc. And these crews do this for 3-5 days at a stretch.

    Which begs the question: do you *really* want to be riding in the back of a jet aircraft piloted by a crew who've been afforded minimal rest the previous four nights? Let's put it another way: would you trust your life to a surgeon who'd been similarly sleep-deprived? The reality is this: the major airlines and their regional airline subcontractors are playing Russan roulette with their passengers' lives EVERY DAY, and Colgan 3407 is the result.

    Think about that the next time you're scouring the internet to save an extra $15 on airfare.

  4. We can also start looking at foreign airlines has to how they behave and pride they carry that makes them look so important. Also, here in the USA equality is too spread out. Give credit when due and respect and honor Doctors, lawyers, Pilots and other high ranking profession's, then maybe with the respect we get from the public we can request better pay. As far as I know the doctors I have met have not loss pay.

  5. betterthanajob, you have no clue. Most resturant servers make more a year than a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year airline pilot. The difference is they have people's lives in their hands, not there drinks. Think about that next time you fly from point a to b. It's a good job, that requires a lot of training and special skills. $20k a year (at a good carrier) is a joke! Tip your pilot, he needs to feed his kid, and keep the roof over their heads.

  6. As a regional airline pilot myself, I would not want to accept tips. This would be very degrading. The airlines should pay us enough money to reflect the level of experience and responsibility that is required from us. Passengers should know that the pilots behind the controls are competent, rested and and happy with their jobs (well paid is one component of being happy).
    I think the only solution that will increase pilot pay would be in a form of better regulations regarding crew pay, rest, and higher minimum experience for 121 pilot jobs.

  7. I definatly see both sides of this.

    While some shmuck on the internet (me) isn't going to come along with a fix for a big problem, I do have one idea. People seem to take price increases of all kinds with less resistance if they like where the money is going. This is also good for traceability.

    Im sure if a 1% surcharge was applied to passenger tickets, and done so as a line item that specified it was going to crew pay, it would be reasonably well accepted. Now that more people are aware of the problem, I would hope that customers would think, "yeah, I guess the people keeping us safe could use an extra $4 from me."

    As I said, traceability would also mean that the airlines would find it far harder to bury that 1% and use it to pad the pockets of executives.

    It doesnt fix scheduling issues, but with better compensation comes less need for as much commuting. Just my, admitadly uneducated, $.02.

    -Bill H
    (just some shmuck on the internet trying to pay for flight school)

  8. I thought that a pilot gets a better paying, but i guess it depends on the company they work for. Being a pilot it's a rewarding job anyway, it must be an overwhelming feeling when you land the plane on the safe ground. They should have some higher salaries though, after all, flying a plane involves certain risks assumed by a pilot on each take-off, and there are plenty take-offs.

  9. The growth of low cost airlines and higher operating costs have definitely contributed to the lowering of pilot salaries over the years, and pilots will accept them while they believe they have a chance of making to the majors and the big bucks.

    My concern though is a safety issue. Nobody can support a family let alone themselves on 20k a year which means that pilots are taking second jobs to make ends meet. Not a nice thought that the guy or gal in front seat has been up all night working another job and might be just a tad tired today.

  10. phan mem dang tin tu dong...

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