Working as an Airline Pilot from the UK

Working as an Airline Pilot from the UK

There is a certain amount of glamour and thrill associated with the job of an airline pilot. After all, flying a plane is a thrilling prospect, and has attractive perks as a career choice. There are different types of jobs involved in being an airline pilot, depending on whether you are flying for a commercial airline, a private company or individual, or a cargo carrier.

How to become a UK Airline Pilot

In the UK, you require 5 GCSE’s and 2 A’ levels to train as a pilot. Alternatively, you could have a university degree to start training as a pilot. Pilot training consists of around 18 months’ of full time education. The training can be undertaken either as a full time 18 month course, or in smaller chunks. The latter option can be more economical than the integrated course as it allows for work breaks in between the different modules.

When you become a pilot you start off as co-pilot and progress to captain when you have the minimum flying time and have passed any additional exams or training. There are a minimum number of hours of flying required before you can qualify as a captain. Currently, the minimum requirement to qualify as captain is 1500 hours of flying time.


Obviously, there are certain physical requirements to qualify as a pilot. Currently the physical criteria are as follows: you need to be between 1.58 and 1.90 meters tall, have normal vision and excellent eyesight. You also need to be physically fit with no serious medical conditions. To be able to work as a pilot you generally also need to have certain attributes, such as leadership skills, being a good team player, and have excellent communication skills.

A pilot’s job is by no means a routine 9 to 5 kind of role. Work hours can be odd, and a lot of shift work is involved. Night shifts and weekend shifts are common and routine. While short haul pilots may have to spend a shorter time away from home, long haul pilots do tend to spend long periods of time away. As such, the work life balance can be tricky to achieve in these conditions.

Working as UK Airline Pilot


There are a number of airlines operating in the UK, and each company has their own salary ranges. Salary also depends on the amount of experience you have, as well as the kind of aircraft you are dealing with. In general, starting salaries for pilots in the UK can vary between £20,500 to £24,000. The salary jump from there to co-pilot or first officer can be quite big, and depending on other factors can vary from £30,000 to £44,000. Captains in medium-sizes airlines could draw up to £75,000. Captains’ salaries in bigger airlines could be over £140,000.

There are several perks associated with working as a pilot in the UK. The salary usually increases every year you work with a company, and all airlines offer pension schemes and other discounts and allowances. The maximum annual flying time for any pilot is 900 hours. This is usually spread over the year with commercial airlines, and can be more seasonal with charter airlines.