Skip to main content

See also:

Pilot Salaries

How many of us actually think about the wage of the person responsible for our safety? How safe would the average person feel if the person in the driver's seat of whatever form of transportation they were riding in was making poverty level wages?

If I ride on a city bus, I have a reasonable expectation that the driver is well trained and will do a good job of getting me from point A to point B. Now, from a safety concern standpoint, do I care how much that driver makes? To a point, yes. I would hope that his or her salary fits the amount of skill involved. After all, most adults in this country know how to drive a motor vehicle, and, with training, can adequately operate a larger one such as a city bus or tractor-trailer. The operation of such a vehicle is not overly complicated, and as such I wouldn't expect someone to get rich driving a bus.

Now, how about long haul tractor-trailers? One would deduce that the training required and time spent away from home would warrant a higher salary. After all, generally speaking, the higher the skill and/or responsibility, the higher the wage.

Most of us are familiar with airline flying. Modern civilization has given us the benefits of a vast network of various transportation methods, and airline flying has become routine for many people. The routine nature has given an assumption that flying for an airline comes with great benefits and salary. Well, yes and no. Most people would be surprised to learn what many airline pilots earn for a living.

Let's establish a perspective. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average city bus driver earns $31,000 annually. That isn't a bad wage, depending upon a dual-income family or the location of residence. The average long-haul trucker earns approximately $30-50,000 annually. The average train conductor earns approximately $54,000 annually. Appropriate for the type of job? I think many would agree, although most would never complain about a higher salary.

Most would agree that flying a multi-million dollar airplane in a variety of weather conditions with scores of people in the back is a highly refined skill. How much is that worth in salary? There are two basic types of airlines: regional and majors. The regionals cover the shorter routes and carry less passengers, while the majors cover longer and international routes. Although the major airlines operate larger airplanes with more passengers, the flight conditions are the same.

A very popular and useful website,, is constantly updated by employees of the various airlines listed on the site, and, as such, is very accurate regarding the salaries of most regional and major airlines. There are many other websites, but any reputable one will provide the same information. According to, the average yearly starting wage of most regional airlines are in the $17-25,000 range. Shocking. The individual responsible for the safety of dozens, if not scores, of people is making poverty level wages. The salary does increase, but not by much. A captain with 5-10 years of experience with the average regional airline is making $50-70,000 on average. Is that worth it?

So, next time you take that short trip from somewhere to somewhere else, bear in mind that one of the two people up front are probably on food stamps. Yet they still do it. Would you pay an extra couple of bucks per ticket to help pay a higher salary?