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After graduating from flight school, it’s wise to start sending job applications to as many airlines as you possibly can. Not only will this help jumpstart your piloting career, but it also places you on an airline’s seniority list or roster as soon as possible. Unlike some other industries, aviation operates on a seniority-based system. This means that the pilots’ ability to move up the career ladder will be based on their years of service.

Those who aren’t familiar with the aviation industry might look at the seniority system as an unbalanced way for pilots to get better benefits. However, the system is an excellent way to place pilots on equal footing. Since pilots go through the same training and perform at the same level every day, every pilot works at the same standard as a result. When every pilot’s performance is identical, a performance-based system can’t justify a pilot’s promotion. Hence, seniority gives everyone a fair chance to move up the ranks.

Reaching the top of the seniority list may take some time. However, if you’re dedicated to having a long and fulfilling career in the aviation industry, you’ll be presented with the following senior pilot benefits:

Your Pay Increases

Like most careers, the salaries of pilots increase the longer they work for an airline. By accruing more flight hours and experience, pilots will eventually move up the seniority list, advance in their careers, and receive more pay. Keep in mind that a pilot’s salary isn’t fixed. Their pay is determined by several factors, including flight hours and the size of the plane. The average rate of their pay increases the closer they get to seniority. In the Philippines, a newly hired pilot can expect an average pilot salary of around PHP 40,000 monthly. In contrast, a more seasoned pilot with over 15 years of experience can have a monthly pilot salary of around PHP 115,000, not counting other allowances and benefits that come with such a senior position.

You Get First Picks on a Lot of Things

One of the perks of placing high on the seniority list is that you get first pick on your assignments as well as other perks that come with the job. This allows you to strategically plot out your tasks for the month, giving you the chance to make quality-of-life improvements. When you’re a senior pilot, you get to select the following things:

  • Your flight routes. Every month, pilots go through a bidding process to determine what their flight schedule will look like for that month. When they go into the airline’s bidding system, priority is given to those who are higher up on the seniority list. As a result, senior pilots often get to choose the best flight assignments, giving the more challenging ones to those under them. Being able to choose their flight routes first also means that senior pilots get to create a favorable work schedule for themselves each month.
  • The type of plane you’ll fly. If you’ve always wanted to fly a certain type of commercial plane, you’ll have better chances of making your dream come true when you’re a senior pilot. This is because senior pilots also get first pick on which aircraft they want to fly. Getting to choose what aircraft to fly can also affect your pay. Flying bigger planes often comes with more responsibilities, but in return, you get a higher pay rate.
  • Your vacation schedules. The process of plotting your vacation days is similar to choosing your flight routes. When airlines publish specific vacation schedules, senior pilots will get to bid for their slots first. As a result, many senior pilots choose the best dates to create the perfect vacation schedule.

You Get a Higher Chance of Getting on a Free Flight

One of the perks of being a pilot is that you get to fly for free during your time off. However, if you’re a newbie pilot, you can’t expect to get on a free flight the moment you request for one. This is because airlines will always prioritize the requests of senior pilots before yours.

Free flights for pilots can be quite rare since airlines can only give a certain number of seats to the flight crew. The free flights will also depend on their demand, so when there’s a free seat, chances are a senior pilot has already taken it.

It Sets up the Road to Becoming a Pilot Captain

Becoming a pilot captain is the ultimate goal for many pilots, but getting there requires thousands of hours of flight time and years of experience. Fortunately, moving up the seniority list gives you a higher chance to be promoted to pilot captain since you’ll be hitting the requirements along the way.

Two major factors can affect the progression of your seniority. The first is the number of new pilots that are being hired. As more newbie pilots enter the roster, you’ll move higher on the list. The second is older pilots above you who are retiring. The mandatory retirement age is 65, so once senior pilots retire, there’s a good chance that you’ll fill their positions.

Seniority is a big deal to pilots since everything in their career revolves around their years of service. That’s why you should strive to get a job in a major airline pronto, so you can enjoy the benefits of senior pilots as soon as possible.