“What does it really cost to become an airline pilot in 2022?” is a one of the most commonly asked questions by those who want to become an airline pilot. In fact, so many people wondered about this that I decided to make a YouTube video a few years ago titled “I Am A Pilot And Incredibly Rich” to introduce aspiring pilots to the topic. However, there are tons more questions from you all, so fasten your seatbelts because we are about to talk about what it really cost to become an airline pilot in 2022. Before we begin, it is important to note that this is based on my own experiences, so it could be different in your case. This article was written by Michelle Gooris (DutchPilotGirl) for Your Pilot Academy.
Brace yourself — these costs are going to sweep you off your feet and send you 30000 feet straight up.
First Thing’s First
Of course, there will always be the cost of the flight training itself. The cost to become an airline pilot vary widely by country, but for the purposes of this article we will use an integrated program in the Netherlands as an example. So, let’s get down to business. The cost of your training will depend on if you choose to follow a modular or integrated program. For myself, I chose an integrated program and paid roughly €150.000,-. Yes, I really paid that much. That breaks down to about €105.000,- for the tuition and approximately €45.000,- for living expenses. Living expenses includes your accommodation, interest payments on pilot loans and any other associated costs to take care of yourself during the training. While you can potentially find tuition rates closer to €80.000,- in countries like Germany or Belgium, there’s still loads more costs to factor in to your decision to become an airline pilot.
Now that we have covered the cost of pilot training, it’s time for the other services and costs which will be required to keep your pilot’s license current, such as the medical examinations and certificates. You must undergo a medical examination every year, and in the Netherlands you pay about €200,- each time for the medical certificate. So, let’s add that amount to our growing list of the cost to become an airline pilot.
Another unexpected significant cost to become an airline pilot, is the insurance. In order to even think about getting a loan to pay for the flight training tuition, it is mandatory that you are insured by a loss of license insurance at all times. Without this, you can kiss that loan goodbye. In the most basic terms, this insurance will cover you if you lose your medical certificate. This means that if you lose an arm, are diagnosed with a serious chronic illness, or suffer any other medical condition which leads to your medical certificate being revoked, this insurance will cover your training expenses. This is required because banks wants to ensure they will get their money back in case you lose your license and can no longer become an airline pilot. Insurance plans such as these will cost you about €400,-.
Multi-Engine Instrument Rating (ME/IR)
If you want to be able to fly a multi-engine aircraft in IFR conditions, or if you even want to be invited for an airline interview in the first place, the ME/IR is probably the number one requirement on your list! You’ll want to have this rating current at literally all times. It can be renewed on the aircraft and every other year in a simulator. The ME/IR renewal will cost you somewhere around €1000,-, but if you end up needing an extra session to pass the check-ride, it will become significantly more pricy. Therefore your personal performance and skills has an immediate influence on the total cost to become an airline pilot.
Single Engine Piston (SEP)
If you’re looking to fly multi-engine aircraft for an airline, only the ME/IR is required. But, just because you have the multi-engine rating doesn’t mean you can just climb into the cockpit of a single engine aircraft like a Cessna 172 or Diamond DA40. If you want to be able to fly these types of aircraft, you will have to take extra steps. Pro tip: Lots of ab initios fly single engine piston aircraft in order to gain flight hours and practical experience. While this isn’t mandatory, it could really help your chances of being successful in your airline selection process! The costs for the SEP start at €300,- per two years, and the hourly rent of an airplane plus landing fees have a ballpark estimate of €120,- to €200,-.
Loans & Interest
So, what does it really cost to become an airline pilot and are we there yet? By this point, I am sure you’re wondering where all this money will come from. Well, the short answer is loans. About 95% of people who sign up for integrated pilot training programs take out a loan to help them finance the training, since there aren’t too many twenty-somethings who have €150.000,- just lying around.
This brings us to the next major monthly expense: interest payments. To understand more about this, let’s use ABN AMRO — a Dutch bank — as an example. Typically, this bank charges an interest rate ranging from nearly 3,9% to 6,2% depending on the current economic situation when you apply for the loan. This averages out to roughly 4,9% interest. To understand this in concrete terms, let’s practice our math skills a bit by crunching some numbers: (150.000 X 0.049) / 12 = a LOT! But seriously, it’s about €600,- per month just to keep the €150.000 balanced. If you can’t pay this much per month, expect the extra costs to be added on top of the loan, which means you’ll be shelling out even more cash in the long run.
Phew, we’re almost finished… Just kidding! We are only just scratching the surface. Keep reading to find out the full picture of what it costs to become an airline pilot.
If you want to keep your skills refined and keep your confidence levels high, you’ll need to pay the simulator a visit every once in a while. Once a month should do. If you want to show any company proof that you’re actually keeping your skills current, you’ll need to use a certified fixed base simulator, which will cost you at minimum €250,- per hour. On the other hand, if you’re seeking a more relaxed session just for your own personal benefit, you can pay approximately €100,- per hour for a non-certified fixed base simulator. The total sum and thus cost to become an airline pilot slightly depends on what the pilot needs to keep its skills up to a great level. For student A this means 1 session a month, while the other student needs at least 2.
Yes, airline interviews also cost money. Think of the logistics — you have to travel to the interview location, book a hotel or flight if needed, and oftentimes there is even a fee just to take part in the selection process for an airline. Also, since airlines usually only invite you for a selection process about a week before it’s set to take place, flights and hotels will be more expensive than if you were able to book in advance. Some airline interviews have more than one round, so you have to travel there several times, but those who are lucky enough find airlines whose selection processes only last one day.
As far as entrance fees go, each airline is different. For instance, CityJet will ask €500,- for one day, and just the first round with EasyJet will cost you £200 (€233,-). Since these costs are often unexpected when someone first starts their training, they can easily creep up on you! This is especially true in Europe, where you have to invest a great deal of time, effort and money before you can sit in the right hand seat of a commercial aircraft.
It’s completely normal for pilots to have to pay for their own type ratings. Yep, you heard that right. In a utopian society (aka thirty years ago) airlines paid for this, but not anymore. Make sure you’re sitting down, or else you may faint when we look at the numbers. A type rating for a Boeing 717 (they do actually still exist) will run you €25.000,- or €30.000 for a Boeing 737-800. You want to fly Airbus? Get ready to pay €40.000,- to €50.000,- for an Airbus 320 type rating. Do you know what this means? If you said another loan, you’re one hundred percent correct.
The Best Job in the World
Hopefully I didn’t scare you too much, since I didn’t write this article to discourage you or to be negative toward the profession (even though it might sound like that). But, when it was time for me to sign the contract and begin my training, I had no idea about all the expenses that were coming my way. I hope to be able to save you the headache and help you prepare upfront, and also to avoid you not being able to realize your dream of being an airline pilot due to the unforeseen costs. Be aware, the loan will haunt you for a while, but if you prepare adequately, maybe you can avoid losing your license because you can’t afford to keep your skills up.
When you become a pilot, you could earn a good deal of money. But, before you get to this point, you’ll need to spend some serious cash first. When your non-pilot friends start thinking about buying a house, you’ll be thinking about how to pay back your loan. However, for most pilots, it’s more about the passion for the industry and the job than living a luxurious life right off the bat.
Is It Worth The Risk?
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking “W**?! What type of person would actually choose this?”. As crazy as it may sound to you now, the benefits far outweigh the expenses and effort to complete your training and maintain your skills. Even when I was unemployed and trying my best to deal with the immense expenses, I never once questioned myself or thought that I made the wrong decision in choosing to become a pilot. Even today, I am still extremely happy I chose to pursue this career and I absolutely love the industry. I often sit in the cockpit, looking out the window at a beautiful landscape or fluffy clouds, and think about how thankful and glad I am to have a profession as amazing as this.
I truly love everything about flying and think it is well worth the money spent to get myself to where I am today. In the long run, you’ll earn good money and everything will be right with the world… just the first few years aren’t all glitz and glamour like you might’ve thought. Us Dutchies know the drill: the first years you must ‘bite through the sour apple’. In other words, bite the bullet and suck it up, buttercup! Better days are on the horizon!
|Pilot training||€ 150.000,-||$ 160.000,-|
|Loan Interest||€ 600,- /month||$ 640,- /month|
|Simulator Sessions||€ 250,- /month||$ 265,- /month|
|Medical||€ 200,- /year||$ 215,- /year|
|Insurance||€ 400,- /year||$ 425,- /year|
|ME/IR||€ 1000,- /year||$ 1060,- /year|
|SEP||€ 450,- /year||$ 475,- /year|
|Airline Interview||€ 1000,- /interview||$ 1060,- /interview|
|Type Rating||€ 30.000,-||$ 31.700,-|
|Total initial costs||€ 180.000,-||$ 190.100,-|
|Total annual costs||€ 12.950,-||$ 13.700,-|
If by now you are still here and I haven’t scared you, then absolutely read this article about the ups and downs of becoming a pilot. Math and Physics are key, so if you are planning on going to a flight school anytime soon, make sure to read that article!