How Much Do American Airlines Pilots Make? FO & Captain Pay

Ken Hyde

By Ken Hyde

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For many pilots, a job with an iconic carrier like American Airlines represents the pinnacle of the profession. It’s no secret being a pilot for a major airline sounds pretty darn cool. But with all the glamor comes a big question: is the salary worth it?

Ever wondered how much those American Airlines pilots pulling up to your gate make? The truth is, it’s a complex answer. Let’s ditch the fluff and get down to brass tacks.

How Much Do American Airlines Pilots Get Paid?

American Airlines pilot paychecks boil down to the number of hours flown, years of experience, and the specific type of aircraft they command. A first officer can earn about $108/hour in the first year and up to nearly $300/hour in the 10th year, while a captain’s pay starts at about $300/hour or even more.

commercial pilot

Around 15,000 American Airlines pilots lean on the Allied Pilots Association (APA) to keep the conversation on pay and benefits going with the company. In August 2023, both sides agreed on a new 4-year contract. This American Airlines pilot pay scale promised a pay raise of over 40% across the board, plus some extra perks, thanks to the nationwide pilot shortage.

First Officer

ModelYear 1Year 5Year 10

Even for first officers, the tentative agreement already spells out some pretty eye-opening numbers. Depending on the aircraft, starting pay rates can look very different, with the premium placed on larger, more complex aircraft.

During the first year in a larger aircraft like the A380 or 747, American Airlines’ first officer salary is $108.34 per hour. But fast forward to year 10, and that rate skyrockets to $294.11 per hour. Smaller birds like the E195 and CRJ-1000 start at the same hourly rate in year one but grow to $169.84 and $144.48 by year 10, respectively.

This tiered structure of pilot compensation not only underscores the value of experience but also the responsibility tied to different aircraft types. With around 1000 hours of flight a year, first officers can see their annual earnings vary significantly based on the plane they’re assigned to and their tenure with the airline.


ModelYear 1Year 5Year 10

American Airlines captain salaries are even more impressive. Steering a giant like the A380 or 747 from day one lands them an hourly wage of $402.28. For senior captains, it climbs to $431.84 by year 10. Compare that to the captains of the smaller CRJ-1000, who start at $197.76 and advance to $212.19 in the same timeframe.

The disparity in base salary between aircraft types is stark. On the top end, experienced captains can earn well over $430,000 with 1,000 hours per year with the 747 or A380.

About American Airlines

This commercial airline is one of the “big three” US legacy carriers. Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, AA has 10 domestic hubs and additional overseas gateways for international travel. Their fleet tops more than 950 aircraft, from regional jets to Boeing 787 Dreamliners and everything in between.

American employs nearly 15,000 pilots to fly this huge operation. The firm runs a mix of Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer equipment, so pilots typically undergo extensive training to be certified on various aircraft types.

The ten major hubs for American Airlines in the United States are:

  • Dallas
  • Chicago
  • New York
  • Boston
  • Washington
  • Phoenix
  • Philadelphia
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Charlotte

The mainline aircraft types in American Airlines’ fleet are:

  • Boeing 737
  • Boeing 787
  • Boeing 787
  • Airbus A321XLR
  • Airbus A321
  • Boeing 737 MAX
  • Boeing 777
  • Airbus A321neo
  • Airbus A319
  • Airbus A330
  • Airbus A320

American Airlines Pilot Hiring Requirements

When it comes to getting hired at American Airlines, there are specific flight time minimums pilots must meet even to get an interview.

At a baseline, applicants need around 1,500 hours total time as well as a commercial pilot certificate and multi-engine ATP rating. Further requirements include at least 500 hours cross-country, 250 hours as pilot-in-command, 100 night hours, 75 instrument hours, and 25 hours multi-engine.

However, meeting just the minimum of those pilot requirements is no guarantee of getting in.

Now, if you really want to stand out, coaching up-and-comers as a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) could give you an edge. American Airlines leans towards candidates who’ve amassed between 2,500 and 7,000 total flight hours, with over 1,000 of those as turbine PIC. Have experience in Part 121 operations or a military background? That’s the cherry on top.

How to Become a Commercial Pilot at American Airlines

Train At Flight Schools

Thinking about taking to the skies with American Airlines? There are a couple of runways you can pick. You can either apply directly or navigate through a guaranteed flow program by initially joining affiliated regional airlines.

For a direct shot, head over to the American Airlines website or get in touch with an aviation-focused recruiting agency. This path is pretty straightforward. Just remember it comes with its own turbulence due to the stringent selection process. This is best suited for those who’ve already racked up plenty of flying in similar positions under their belts.

If you’re just starting out, consider starting at a flight school, like AA’s Cadet Academy or another partner program. Here, you’ll earn your wings, gather your certifications, and start piling up flight hours.

From there, you’ll aim to become one of the regional airline pilots under the American Eagle brand, such as Envoy Air or Piedmont. This is your chance to build up your experience and prove you’ve got what it takes.

Once you’ve accumulated enough airtime and expertise there, you can set your sights on American Airlines. It’s a longer road, but it offers a bit more flexibility for those still earlier on their airline pilot career path.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do American Airlines Accept Applications From International Pilots?

Yes, but pilots must have the legal right to work in the US and a valid passport to fly international routes.

What’s the Typical Application and Hiring Timeline?

It’s a lengthy process that often takes many months, from the initial application to a final hiring decision.

What Are the Main Stages of the American Pilot Interview Process?

Expect a multi-leg process. It starts with an online application, followed by video and phone interviews, then an in-person assessment, and capped off with a simulator evaluation.

What Kinds of Benefits Do Pilots Get In Addition to Their Base Pay?

Airlines like American typically provide pilots with life insurance and disability coverage to protect them and their families. Many carriers also offer signing bonuses that can be quite substantial.

Pilots are usually granted a few weeks of vacation time per year. Most of them also benefit from union protection, which gives them better leverage and job security.

What Are the Requirements to Enter American Flight School?

You’ll need a high school diploma or GED to be legally eligible to work in the US and to pass an FAA Physical, among other things.

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We hope this guide has provided helpful insight into American Airlines pilot salary and requirements. Best of luck as you pursue your dreams in the aviation industry.

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Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde is the founder of The Wright Experience™. He is passionate about antique airplanes and has restored many of the Wright brothers' planes, including the 1918 Curtiss Jenny and the 1903 Wright Flyer. He is also a pilot and mechanic who has worked for Capital Airlines, Bendix Corporation, and American Airlines.

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