Cheap Pilots

Q: According to several accounts, pilots are notoriously cheap. Wanna take a swipe?

If pilots are cheap it’s because it often takes them years and years of slugging it out at low paying commuter airlines before they ever make a halfway decent blue-collar salary. The pilots on the upper parts of a major airline’s seniority list indeed make a good living, but it didn’t come easy. Those working for smaller regional carriers often make embarrassingly poor salaries, and it can take many years before they join the ranks at a better-paying major airline, if ever.

Flying, it has been said, is much like acting, painting (or writing for on-line magazines), etc. Rewards loom for the fortunate, but many pilots are suffering for their art.


This Q&A is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.