On Wednesday, United Airlines subsidiary Air Wisconsin announced a starting salary increase for co-pilots. Going forward, Air Wisconsin co-pilots will start at a pay rate of $60/hour.
Air Wisconsin raises salary for departing first officer
Air Wisconsin is a regional airline that operates for United Airlines as United Express with a fleet of CRJ-200 jets. Its operations are spread throughout the United States East Coast and the Midwest. Like two other regional airlines, Air Wisconsin announced this week that it was raising its first officer salary to $60 an hour. In addition to the hourly wage increase, the regional airline is offering $20,000 in bonuses and a bonus of up to 300%.
On its careers page, Air Wisconsin lists the following requirements for co-pilots
- Legal authorization to work in the United States
- Must be able to read, write, speak fluently and understand the English language
- Must have an ATP or be qualified to obtain an ATP or Restricted ATP (CFR 61.159 and 61.160)
- Current FAA First Class Medical Certificate
- FCC radio license
- Valid civilian passport and authorization to travel to and from all cities and countries served by Air Wisconsin
- Valid US driver’s license
- Degree from an accredited four-year college preferred
- Recency of experience will be considered
Other US regional airlines raise pilot pay
In June, three of American Airlines’ regional operators announced pay increases for its pilots to stem attrition and help ensure operational reliability. PSA Airlines, Envoy Air and Piedmont Airlines have announced wage increases due to a continued loss of pilots to major carriers, particularly American Airlines.
Regional airlines across the United States are struggling to retain their pilots. Photo: Lukas Souza | single flight
PSA Airlines has announced a pay rise that will see its pilots earn an average of 57% more per year than they could at competing airlines. In a statement, PSA said:
“This revolutionary pay system will make PSA’s group of pilots the highest paid in the regional airline industry. With an additional pick-up bonus, pilots will earn 50-70% HIGHER pay (57% on average ) than the second highest paid regional carrier, Endeavour.With this total compensation, including bonuses, pilots can now expect to earn 10% more over the next five years than their peers at major LCC, ULCC and freight carriers.
Envoy Air aims to have the highest-paid regional pilots in the industry, but announced its pay rise ahead of PSA, which beat its pay increase. The airline is adding a pilot supply bonus of 50% to its hourly pay rate for the next two years, plus 6% for co-pilots dispatched and 10% for captains dispatched through July 2029.
Piedmont Airlines announced a similar deal to Envoy, increasing its first-year captain’s salary from $78 an hour to $146 an hour (an 87% increase) and its first-year officer’s salary from $51 per hour to $90 per hour (a 76% increase) .
To learn more about Simple Flying’s coverage of regional airline wage increases, click here
Pilots are starting to get pay raises, but what about flight attendants?
Shortly after the announcement of pay increases for American Airlines regional airline pilots, pay increases for flight attendants at Envoy, Piedmont and PSA were also announced. But the flight attendant pay raises are nowhere near as big as the pilot’s raise. The starting salary of flight attendants at PSA will be increased by around 31%. While this looks like a significant increase, looking at the numbers, it’s extremely difficult to understand how PSA flight attendants are able to make a living.
Entry-level flight attendants on American Airlines regional airlines will now earn $27 per flight hour. Photo: American Airlines
With the 31% pay increase, first-year flight attendants at PSA will earn about $25,000 a year, up from about $19,000 a year. In Piedmont, first-year flight attendants were earning about $17,000 before pay increases were announced. Envoy and Piedmont flight attendants will receive a starting salary of around $27 per hour, close to the amount entry-level flight attendants earn at some major carriers in the United States.
Digging a little deeper, it doesn’t take much to figure out that even with the salary increases, those salaries are extremely low. Many retail stores and fast-food restaurants nationwide have raised their starting wages to $15 an hour, meaning full-time employees are earning nearly $32,000 a year, significantly more. than the annual starting salary of regional flight attendants. Although the starting hourly rate for regional flight attendants is nearly double that of many retail stores and fast food restaurants, flight attendants are only paid for flight hours, which significantly reduces their ability to earn a living wage.
A few months ago, an online petition called Pay me for boarding was created to raise awareness of the lack of pay for flight attendants during the boarding process. The petition quickly gained traction and an Instagram page was created with the same name. The aim of the page is to better understand the working conditions, mental state, financial conditions of flight attendants, etc. Recently, the page posted a poll asking “Are there any flight attendants following this page who are unable to pay their monthly bills, are food insecure, are on food stamps, who live below the poverty line in their state of residence or who are homeless?” The poll results are shocking and can be seen in the post below:
The post contains several slides that include anonymous messages from flight attendants that add insight into the poll results. A message reads: “We had an instructor who recommended that we ask for food stamps when we graduated from training in order to pay for groceries. Another post reads: “Me. I’m behind on all my bills. I woke up in the middle of the night and ran outside to check if my car had already been picked up.”
Attempted breach of contract?
Regional flight attendants are not the only ones to be paid very little, the same is true for mainline flight attendants. Simple Flying had the opportunity to speak with a United Airlines stewardess, whose name will remain anonymous. As part of that conversation, the flight attendant shared that it’s easy for airlines to keep flight attendant pay so low.
“One of the harsh realities of our industry is that we [flight attendants] are replaceable. It sucks to say this, but at the end of the day, it only takes a few weeks to train new people at half pay. And the airlines really benefit from that.”
The flight attendant added that United Airlines requires its flight attendants to attend six meetings called “connection sessions” during their probationary period (which lasts six months). These six meetings each last between one and two hours and include 10 to 20 minutes of homework called “pre-work”. While that doesn’t sound bad, United doesn’t compensate flight attendants for time spent in these meetings, requiring them to attend meetings on days off or during rest periods. If any of these meetings are not followed up, United counts this as a missed trip on a flight attendant’s record, and more than one missed trip may result in termination. The stewardess missed one of their “connection sessions” and recounted the scenario.
“When I didn’t have the chance to attend a [connect meeting], they gave me a missed trip for that. He [my supervisor] said I could have entered during my seated time or during my layover. One of the stops was a 10.5 day [rest period during the daytime] after a red eye. I arrived in Dulles (IAD) at 6am, spent 10.5 hours there and had to work two legs to get back to base that afternoon. They [my supervisors] wanted me to come around noon to attend. Naturally, because it’s ridiculous, in addition to multiple breaches of contract, I didn’t go, so I had my first trip missed.”
This is a situation where a flight attendant should seek union support, which has already happened in this case. Despite the union’s support, the crew member does not believe the situation will be resolved quickly.
“The union is looking into it, but they can be so ridiculously bureaucratic that by the time they do anything about it, it will be fall or winter at the earliest.”
32% of flight attendants (who belong to unions) recently surveyed by Pay Me For Boarding on Instagram hate unions. Another 32% say they haven’t had to use the union for grievances, and the remaining 37% love their unions.
The reason for many of the widespread problems with pilots and flight attendants is the Railway Labor Act, a law that was created in 1926 to manage working conditions for railway workers and now applies to airlines. The law was amended twice, once in 1934 and again in 1966, and was expanded in 1936 to include airlines. Fighting a nearly 60-year-old law for better working conditions is no small feat. Nonetheless, flight attendants across the United States remain strong in the fight and hope their voices will be heard by their employers.
What do you think of the salary increases for regional pilots in the United States? Did you know that flight attendants receive such low salaries and face difficult working conditions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.