. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The salary of a pilot, especially commercial pilots, have long been under scrutiny and the envy of many. Being a pilot is claimed to be one of the best paying jobs in the world, or so would the majority of people believe. However, is it really?
With so much hush hush around the subject, Pilot Kaki is attempting to quash these 'hearsay' claims and rumours once and for all by dissecting the approximate salary of a Singapore Airlines (SIA) pilot, and shed light on this hot topic.
As with the salaries of other jobs, it is a touchy topic with the numbers not only personal to the pilot community, but specifically to us as well. In addition to being one of the most heavily regulated and unionised occupations around, data is private and extremely hard to obtain if you are not part of the circle.
In order to preserve this level of solitude with the utmost respect for fellow pilots around us, Pilot Kaki will only utilise reputable and publicly available sources to compile information to help illustrate and give a good indication of the salary of a pilot.
As such, due to limited information, please note that the figures obtained may not be the most updated. Also, there is currently only public intelligence available on SIA pilots and not other local carriers like Scoot and Jetstar Asia, although assumptions can be made. Should more materials be available or updated down the road, Pilot Kaki will be able to elaborate on this further. In the future, with more direction on the local carriers, we will hope to draw comparisons between our major international counterparts as well.
Sources of Information
Sydney Morning Herald
To string this guide together, Pilot Kaki have used reputable and publicly available source. Each time information or data points are shared, the source and time stamp of the article will be indicated.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of sources which were used:
The Straits Times
Centre for Aviation
The salary of SIA pilots is made up of three primary components:
The Base Pay is fixed on a monthly basis and makes up 60% of the total salary package. Meanwhile, the Productivity Allowance and Meal Allowance portions are variable every month and contribute to the remaining 40%.
(Source: The Straits Times - SIA to gradually restore pilots’ basic salaries to pre-pandemic levels by January, 4 May 2022)
These components are further elaborated and explained below.
Base Pay Fixed
Also know as Basic Salary, this is the only portion of an SIA pilot's salary that is fixed. This means that it is independent from both the number of hours flown and also the destination(s) flown to. The typical percentage to which the Base Pay make up the total salary package hovers around 60%.
The amount increases both with seniority and as you climb up the ranks - from being a Cadet Pilot all the way up to Captain. The aircraft type the pilot fly may also lead to a higher Base Pay.
The Base Pay and percentage may vary across other airlines, both local or international, being dependent on the type of arrangements and agreements to which they have with the staff union or pilots.
Productivity Allowance Variable
The Productivity Allowance is an hourly rate paid to the pilot for every hour he/she operates and flies the aircraft. As such, it is variable in nature and is dependent on the number of hours flown that month. Factors such as flight cancellations, medical or annual leave may correspondingly affect the Productivity Allowance component. However, as there is a maximum limit of the number of hours a pilot can fly to align with fatigue management, the Productivity Allowance is somewhat fixed on a monthly basis.
Combined with the pilot's Meal Allowance, it will make up about 40% of the remaining salary package.
Only qualified co-pilots and commanders are productive in the cockpit and as such, pilots in SIA will only start to earn Productivity Allowances after attaining the rank of a First Officer. Different ranks also command different Productivity Allowances, with Captains earning more per hour on the left-hand seat.
Meal Allowance Variable
Meal Allowances is paid to the pilot whenever he or she is required to stay for a certain period of time at an overseas station. Allowances for breakfast, lunch and dinner will be paid to the pilot, depending on the time of arrival and departure along with the duration of the stay.
Combined with the pilot's Productivity Allowance, it will make up about 40% of the remaining salary package.
Meal allowances may vary greatly across different destinations, with Southeast-Asian destinations having lower allowances while destinations where food costs are higher like Europe or USA will command higher allowances. Hence, the meal allowances a pilot tend to receive fluctuates greatly across the different months.
So now that there has been a clear breakdown of salary components, let us move on to the numbers and figures.
According to Glassdoor, the pilot salaries at SIA can range from S$833 - S$20,000 per month for Base Pay. Given such a huge range, it may seem hard to decipher what exactly the salary bracket is for each rank within the airline. However, for simplicity sake, based on the rank structure illustrated on the Career Progression page, we will take the salary of S$833 as that of a Cadet Pilot, with the S$20,000 salary being that of SIA's highest paid Captain.
(Source: Glassdoor - Singapore Airlines Pilot Monthly Salary, 3 Aug 2021)
Based on an article by Today Online, an SIA pilot who was flown with the airline for 4 years makes about S$14,000 a month on average, including allowances during pre-Covid times. However, with the pay cut during the pandemic, his Base Pay is reduced from S$7,600 to S$6,460. Given his relatively short tenure with the airline this year, it can be assumed that he is still currently a First Officer, giving a fair indication of what a First Officer earns with SIA.
These figures would point to a combined Productivity Allowance and Meal Allowance of S$6,400. This number is close to the 40% mark as earlier mentioned and thus paints an accurate picture to the Productivity and Meal allowance for that of a First Officer.
A pilot that has been with SIA for 27 years also stated that he used to earn S$23,000 a month compared to S$13,000 during the Covid-19 pandemic. With such extensive experience, it is fair to say that he is of the Captain rank within SIA. Presuming that he is not the highest paid Captain with the airline, which has a base pay topping S$20,000, the amount of S$23,000 would refer to his total salary package as a Captain.
Using the 60%-40% breakdown of the salary components, this would mean that the Captain of mention was earning approximately S$13,800 as Base Pay and S$9,200 as Productivity Allowance and Meal Allowance. As the latter component does not change with years of experience, it can be applied across all Captains within SIA.
(Source: Today Online - One sees his flying dream cut short, other SIA pilots become delivery drivers, 27 Sep 2020)
The aforementioned numbers somewhat matches with data provided in an article by the Sydney Morning Herald. In 2007, the Base Pay for a Captain flying the Boeing 747 is S$10,000 while the maximum Base Pay for a Captain flying the A380 is S$16,500. As this dated from over a decade ago, and the maximum Base Pay as indicated by Glassdoor is now S$20,000, we can assume the same upward shift of S$3,500 for the lowest Base Pay from S$10,000 to $13,500.
(Source: Sydney Morning Herald - Bigger pay for pilots of super jumbo A380 plane, 25 May 2007)
At present, there are no existing data points available for Second Officers.
As such, the total salary package on a per month basis across the various ranks in SIA can be summarised as follow:
Note: Numbers are approximate figures only, and rounded to the nearest whole number
Pilot Kaki would like to re-iterate that the above information is available from publicly available sources and may not be the most accurate or up-to-date representation of an SIA pilot's salary.
Also, as much as we are keen n breaking down the numbers for potential candidates out there interested in a flying career since remuneration is a vital part of an employment package, we would like to highlight and urge that salary should never be your top consideration.
Now that you have a clearer picture on how much an SIA pilot actually earns, it is definitely decent albeit nowhere near the top of the scale like your other typical higher-paying jobs. Pilot Kaki would like to highlight and urge that salary should never be your top consideration.
Flying involves numerous sacrifices that do not come with other equally high-paying jobs out there in the market - potentially long flight hours with unusual rest hours and cycles, the inability to get certain days off important occasions and holidays, and perhaps most importantly, time away from family, friends and loved ones. It is paramount that you select flying because it is passion, and not money, that will keep your flame alive through the forthcoming decades to be spent with the airline. It is only with this that you will benefit from a fruitful career in aviation and as a pilot.