Do you believe working as an airline pilot is as pleasant as it sounds?
If you are one of them who wants to become a pilot for the glamour of that uniform, then you must study the pros and cons of being a pilot.
Being an airline pilot and burning jet fuel for a living has its disadvantages too. But there are disadvantages to all kinds of work.
After you finish reading this article, you can figure out whether your desire to be an airline pilot surpass the disadvantages this job has to offer or not.
What are the Cons of being a pilot?
Pilot training is expensive: Did you think flight school is inexpensive? If you feel so, then you are wrong.
Flight training is very costly. And one has to pay all that money in a short period.
Someone who is not financially strong to fund their flight training will have to give up their dream of being a pilot.
An aspiring pilot has to pay for acquiring a commercial pilot license and might as well require to pay for a type rating.
It is common nowadays to pay for your type rating to land your first job in an airliner cockpit.
No job guarantee:
It is challenging to land a job today with only a commercial pilot license and an instrument rating. I know you already paid a lot for your flight school.
But that’s not all. These days many airlines shamelessly ask commercial pilots to pay for their type rating. I think it is merely a fabricated term for bribing an airline to get a job.
Thus I believe there is no Job guarantee even after you spend thousands of dollars. Companies may ask for more to give you a job. Demands for pilots are long gone. Especially after this COVID 19 crisis, it is reasonable to say that the airlines are not hiring any pilots at least for the next two years.
Volatility in the aviation industry:
Many things in the aviation industry is uncertain. One of which is the pilot jobs. Many airlines go bankrupt quickly due to the failure of acquiring passengers. Managing an airlines cost millions of dollars. Many airlines have to shut down their operation entirely or at least sell a few aircraft from their fleet to cut costs.
Minimizing their fleet means they need fewer pilots and crew. So an airline might suspend a pilot just because they have to. So don’t be surprised to receive an email one morning that you got suspended temporarily. Do you think that will not happen to you?
The truth is thousands of pilots today are getting suspended due to COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of grounded aircraft means no need pilots to fly them. Airplanes are not flying, and the airline is at a loss.
Without profit, they don’t need to pay someone who is not currently working. If you think I am lying, you can do your research online.
Have to work hard to earn your position:
Working hard is normal for any job. If you are willing to be the best, you have to work hard. Do you think airlines hire a pilot by their looks? No, they will hire only the best and the most experienced one.
A fresh recruit in the airline is junior and has to work diligently to gain seniority.
From the first day of your pilot training until the day you sit in the airliner cockpit, you have to work hard. And it does not stop there. As a pilot, you will learn new things every day. Pilots never stop learning.
A pilot has to study and acquire knowledge throughout their career to become an excellent professional pilot. Pilots have to work hard for a long time to gain their position in an airline.
If you are competent and a safe pilot, only then will you get an elevation as a captain. Becoming an airline captain will take years in an airline.
Changing airlines will drag you behind in your life:
Changing airlines means you are commencing your aviation career again.
Like I said earlier, one has to work hard in an airline to earn their respect. Once a pilot changes the airlines immediately, the pilot becomes a junior in the new airline.
In another company, a pilot is a junior regardless of their prior experience. It means this pilot has to start over from the bottom again.
This pilot will work his way up the ladder to earn a respectable position in the company. Thus frequently changing airlines is like pressing the reset button several times in your career.
Irregular working hours:
Working as an airline pilot is different from any corporate job. Can you guess why?
It is because of the flight schedules. The working hours for pilots are irregular.
One week a pilot may have flight schedules during the day. The next week this same pilot will have to fly other destinations during the night time.
A pilot can have flight schedules departing at dawn or dusk.
This irregularity can be exhausting initially, and in the long run, it can generate fatigue. A pilot can have sleeping disorders due to variable hours.
Some pilots suffer from jet lags and various sleeping disorders. Years after years, repeating the same thing can affect a pilots health poorly.
Losing job due to medical conditions:
Unable to fly due to medical conditions is a pilot’s nightmare. Pilots have to take good care of their health to keep their pilot job intact.
An airline pilot needs a first-class medical certificate to keep working in the airline. It is a primary requirement for pilots.
To have a first-class medical certificate, a pilot must always maintain a proper diet and good habits. Pilots need to stay fit and have excellent health condition.
All pilots have to do medical check-ups annually. Sometimes every six months to renew their first-class medical certificate.
If a pilot fails to acquire the first-class medical certificate, then the pilot will be suspended until they get back their first-class medical certificate.
An airline will not allow a medically unqualified pilot with the responsibility of flying hundreds of passengers.
If a pilot, unfortunately, has a medical condition that has no cure, that pilot cannot keep his job. Think of it like this, a pilot with an uncurable medical condition can never get his/her first-class medical certificate.
Thus the pilot will be forced to leave the airlines.
A commercial pilot license typically requires renewal annually. However, airline pilots need recurrency training every six months.
Recurrency training is merely a check for type rated pilots.
During recurrency training, all the pilots have to prove that they are eligible for operating the type of aircraft, and they can safely land the plane in case of an emergency.
Unable to pass a recurrency check indicates that the pilot has to go back to school. Pilots need to prepare and pass the test suitably to fly again.
Unable to attend family gatherings:
As a commercial pilot, you have the privilege of flying to various destinations.
But flying to different destinations, you will have to stay far away from your family for quite some time.
Having layover in five different countries in a month implies a pilot is away from the family several times in a month.
As the airline schedules flights for pilots, a pilot has no say against it and likely cannot request a rescheduling of their flights.
Also, the schedules do not follow traditional weekends or holidays. Especially, junior pilots in a company has no say over the flight schedules and the destinations they fly.
Therefore you might not be able to attend the family gathering next weekend just because you have a flight to operate.
Your family might be planning for the family reunion for a year on the coming weekend. Unfortunately, you might be flying halfway around the globe while your friends and family have that reunion party.
Many pilots indeed miss out on the first birthday party of their child.
What are the pros of being a commercial pilot?
Pilot wages are high: It is no secret that airline pilots have a high salary and numerous benefits. Perhaps this is one reason why many students dream of becoming an airline pilot.
It is true the pay is high for pilots in the airlines but only to some extent.
Only a captain or individuals that hold the position of a senior pilot in the airline get an excellent salary.
A Captain’s wage is somewhere between 200k-300k US dollars annually.
However, the salary of a first officer may not be as good as a captains fee.
A first officer can earn around 100k US dollars annually. Yet, making 100k USD in a year is not bad if I compare with the salary in most corporate jobs.
In time this first officer will work his way up to become a captain someday.
Opportunity to travel the world:
Honestly, until now, I wish to get my job in the airline for this one reason.
I want to travel around the world. I want to experience a different culture and try different food.
As an airline pilot, I can do all those for free.
Can you imagine that it is one of the greatest privileges of being a commercial pilot?
Airline pilots have layover in different destinations. Moreover, they stay in hotels which the airlines already paid.
Pilots from the top-notch airlines get an excellent salary and lives in luxurious hotels during their layover. Similarly, the company pays the crew of airlines adequate money for daily costs during their layover.
Flexible day off:
Pilots working in airlines get many day-offs.
In reality, an airline pilot may get more day-offs than any traditional job.
Let’s think of it this way:
A conventional white-collar worker will get at least eight day-offs in a month. On the contrary, a pilot working in an airline might have 10 to 15 day-offs every month.
In any conventional job, the day-offs are always on weekends. However, in airlines, the day-offs are flexible.
A commercial pilot who may have frequent flight for three days in a row, and may relax for the next three days without a flight schedule.
As a commercial pilot gains seniority in the airline, they can even request for day-offs on their desired date.
Contrarily, day-offs in airlines are not always on weekends. You can have spare time in the middle of the week. That may sound like not the best for all, but it is good for many.
Leave work at work:
Unlike most jobs today, a pilot can leave all his work in the office and go back home only to relax.
In today’s world, it is far common to see people saying always being busy.
They are active in their traditional workplace, and once they go back home, they return with several tasks to complete and prepare for the next day.
Whereas a pilot, after completion of a flight, leaves the cockpit, without worries of work until he gets back to the cockpit next time.
Nevertheless, it is not an easy task to fly the airplane until the pilot gets used to the job.
But don’t you think that is the norm in today’s world? Stress is always present in all types of workplace.
Hence, by leaving all thoughts of work inside the cockpit, a pilot has more time to spend with their family. Now it depends on a pilot, how he wants to spend his time at home.
If the pilot is willing to prepare ahead before his next flight, he can do that.
Fortunately, preparing for the next flight will not take more than an hour. And as a pilot becomes a senior in the company, preparing for the next schedule becomes his second nature.
Flying an airplane is the best experience:
Flying is not only a job, but for many pilots, it is their passion. They love flying.
Flying an aircraft is a fantastic experience. A pilot gets to see the world entirely from another point of view.
Like I always say:
“You will never see the world from a bird’s eyes unless you become a pilot.”
Getting into the cockpit and have controls of a giant million-dollar machine is extraordinary.
Furthermore, the scenic views pilots get from their office are exceptional, which no other jobs in the world offers.
They see the sunrise and sunset and spectacular views of mountains. They get to see the volcanoes and surf the clouds.
But experience is not always beautiful.
Sometimes pilots encounter the mother nature’s terrible course. Pilots have to fly through hailstorm and thunderstorm during their flight.
Does your job offer you all these? I don’t believe it does.
Flying is fun, and the responsibility that comes with the job is a passion for some pilots.
If you are confused about whether to choose a career path as a pilot, then I believe this article will allow you to figure out your ways. You can know why this career path is right for you.
If you think it is not the right path, you will know what changes you need to make to become a pilot in the future.
Being a pilot is a privilege, and at the same time, you can choose to have other hobbies.
That’s what I think is the best part about being a pilot. Many pilots work as a pilot and manage other businesses too.
No matter what you choose in your life, working hard and being passionate about what you do will make you better in it.