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Is it unheard of to make a career at the regionals?

Buster

New member
Hey all,

Is it unheard of to stay at a regional airline? I'm in the very early stages of working toward a career as a commercial pilot, and I've noticed everyone is stressing the majors as the end goal. The thing is, the salaries for regional captains I've seen listed online seem pretty darn good. So I'm curious, why are positions at the majors so much more desirable? And would it be so bad to just stay at a regional?
 

Happy_cfi

Member
It's not unheard of, but typically regionals want a consistent turnover of pilots to keep costs down. Low time pilots simply are worth less and therefore are cheaper. I personally know someone who stayed with a regional for over 10 years as a captain because he liked being the most senior pilot they had allowing him to get his first pick on flights each month. He ended up having issues with the company because he was too senior and they were having to pay him more than they wanted to. He eventually was pushed out and now just instructs.
 
I have not really heard of making a career from regionals but i am a private pilot so i don't work planes for compensation.
 
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RAF805

Member
It is not unheard of to have a career at a regional but the pay difference and quality of life can be substantial. For example, a 12-year captain at United who flies a 737-900 makes $283/hour compared to a 12-year captain at Skywest who flies an ERJ 175 that makes $110/ hour. If the minimum hour guarantee is 75 hours per month (its actually 70 for United and 76 for Skywest), that translates to a minimum annual pay of roughly $255k for a United captain compared to $99k for the Skywest captain (hourly rates based on information on Airline Pilot Central). That is a pretty substantial difference.

Since the opportunity to be selected for captain is primarily seniority based, from a financial perspective, it makes the most sense to get to a major carrier as soon as you can in your career.

Just my thoughts.
 

Buster

New member
But if you want a home life a regional might be better - home every night?
I'm particularly curious about this sort of thing. While I definitely would prefer a $250k salary, realistically anything over $75k would make me happy enough. Perhaps the question I need to ask is this: Aside from money, why are regional airlines considered only a stepping stone? Is the scheduling just crummy? Being home most nights does sound appealing.
 

RAF805

Member
There are several others on the forum who would have better insight into the regionals. However, the regionals that I am familiar with all have multiday trips built into their schedules. My understanding is that out and back trips that get you home each night aren't necessarily the norm and tend to go to the more senior pilots. Also, regional trips can be very busy with numerous legs a day with very limited time between legs to do things like eating or going to the restroom. My impression is that quality of life issues are better with the major carriers.
 

Zeede

Active member
Staff member
I'm particularly curious about this sort of thing. While I definitely would prefer a $250k salary, realistically anything over $75k would make me happy enough. Perhaps the question I need to ask is this: Aside from money, why are regional airlines considered only a stepping stone? Is the scheduling just crummy? Being home most nights does sound appealing.
Think of regionals as the minor leagues for [insert sport here]. Nobody, if they're good enough, decides to stay in the minors forever. Quality of life, pay, ancillary benefits, everything else is better at the majors.

Now if you only had one or two more seasons in you, then sure, maybe stay at the minors, but otherwise, climbing the ladder at a major would be better in the long run.
 

321Captain

Active member
I’ve done both. Regionals are great if you are building time, or as my case was, having a job to keep current. I didn’t need hours, but you need to have a job to get a job. The pay at the regionals is really low unless you are a very senior captain. I flew regional for three years, and never made over 17k a year.
 
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