Negotiating Pilot Salary and Contracts


Negotiating a salary is one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the job hunting experience for people in just about every profession.

So pilots who are looking to land contracts certainly aren't an exception.

How do you negotiate your pilot salary, and what are some of the tips for making sure you get a fair offer or even negotiate a better one? 

Pilots flying for major airlines have the benefit of relying on their union and representatives to help them get a fair deal. If you're looking for a contract yourself, you'll have to rely on your own negotiation skills to get the pilot salary you need. 

Here's how to do it:

Know What You're Worth

This is tricky, we know. Many people tend to devalue their own worth because they imagine that there are other people out there with more experience who may also be in the running for the job.

But doing your research and figuring out what the average pilot salary is for someone in your position is one of the first steps you should take, even before you start looking for jobs. Knowing what you're worth is half the battle. 

Also, take some time to investigate your potential employer's needs.

Is this a short-term contract with short notice?

That might mean that they're in a bind and need someone badly. Use that knowledge to your advantage.

Do you think you're the perfect candidate for the job?

That too can be something you keep in the back of your mind when deciding on a pilot salary.

When you've done all of your research, you'll be able to give them a solid value proposition–what you're worth and why you're worth it.

Value Your Abilities Highly

This sounds like the first point, but it's actually a different matter entirely.

Knowing what you're worth is one thing, but actually pushing to get that salary is another.

Some people feel uncomfortable asking for a higher amount, but how uncomfortable will you feel when you realize you're flying for less than what you originally wanted?

The oldest trick in the book is to start high, and for good reason. Whatever number you originally give will act almost like a magnet, drawing the employer's eye, and the amount they're willing to settle at. 

Start high enough so that you might be a little embarrassed by the number, but not so high that you're going to get silence on the other end.

If you've gone through the first step, you should have a decent ballpark idea of what this number is. If you start at the number you actually want, there's a good chance you'll wind up with less, and you certainly won't get more. 

No one's ever offered to pay more once they know the other person will take less.

Let Them Make The Offer

Sometimes you can't avoid being the first one to give a number in a salary negotiation. But if you can help it, let them make you an offer. 

Many employers will screen their different candidates at least partially by what their salary demands are. If you give a number too early in the game, and it's a little high like we mentioned before, there's a chance you could be out of the running. 

It's certainly a risk, but on the other hand, you want to be sure you're getting an offer that makes sense for you and doesn't leave you feeling a little disappointed or regretful. 

Try to get to the point where you feel confident that they want to hire you before talking about your pilot salary. If they ask you immediately, you can either give your higher number or tell them that there are other issues you'd like to talk about first. 

Don't Agree

Okay, so there may be a number that you're ready to jump at. Perhaps they offer you a much higher pilot salary than you were thinking about. If it's a once-in-a-blue-moon offer, then you can agree.

But one of the worst things you can do during a negotiation is to simply say, "Okay," to the offer. People do this because they're nervous, it was a decent offer, or they're worried about negotiating upwards. 

But "okay" takes everything off the table. It's over at that point. 

What do you do instead? Be thoughtful. And actually, think it over. How do you feel about their offer?

A little silence on the line, or a thoughtful "hmm" will put the pressure back on them to improve their offer. Most people don't think about the value of good silence, but it can be an effective bargaining tool.

It's tough for some people to stay silent than it is for others, but you might be surprised at what you can accomplish by saying nothing

Don't Accept A Low Pilot Salary

Look, at one point or another we've all been in a tough spot–you simply need work. Sure, some people get hired by an airline and retire with the same airline, but that's not the way things work out for everyone.

So it's hard to say, "Never accept a low salary." But we're saying it anyway because unless there are extreme circumstances, you shouldn't accept a pilot salary that's less than what you know you're worth. 

Not only will you hate the job because you'll know you aren't making what you should, but accepting low paying contracts drives down salaries, and no one wants to compete for low-paying jobs.

A lowball offer should also raise red flags about the employer in general.

Why are they comfortable offering you this amount?

Is this how they usually treat employees?

What can you expect from them going forward if so?

If you're a pilot looking for contract work, it can often feel like you're on your own. But the process doesn't have to be difficult or painful.

Instead of searching through job boards, join FindaPilot and become a part of our online community where pilots and employers find the right matches every day.