Are Cargo Pilots Paid More?

The most obvious difference between airline pilots and cargo pilots is that cargo pilots transport things such as packages and mail, while airline pilots (both private and commercial) transport passengers and luggage, usually to a holiday destination.

While airline pilots and cargo pilots have to undertake pretty much the same training and meet the same requirements set by the FAA, it’s common for airline pilots to have a higher overall salary on average than cargo pilots. 

The main reason that cargo pilots tend to make less money than airline pilots is because they have slightly different roles and work responsibilities.

For example, though both airline and cargo pilots need to ensure that the people/cargo are transported from destination to destination, airline pilots often have the additional task of having to make announcements to passengers, control the cabin temperature to make sure that the passengers are comfortable, as well as having to deal with the responsibilities of the safety of each person on board the aircraft. 

Therefore, it can be said that cargo pilots have fewer worries while embarking on each flight, though they do need to ensure that the cargo isn’t damaged mid-flight. 

Regardless of the responsibility difference, choosing to become a cargo and airline pilot is no doubt a lucrative career choice, regardless of which one you choose to be.

On average, a cargo pilot makes around $95,000 per annum, while airline pilots make an average of $99,000 per annum.

How do I become a freight pilot?

If you have plans to become a freight carrier airline pilot, then you’ll first need to reach out to a flight school that offers the relevant course to successfully acquire your private pilot’s license.

Once you have obtained your private pilot license, you will then be able to further your pilot education and put yourself forward to gain a commercial pilot license, which is necessary if you wish to become a professional pilot.

During this time, you may also wish to gain additional qualifications including a certified flight instructor rating (CFI) an instrument rating, as well as a multi-engine rating, which will stand you in good stead of getting employed as a professional freight pilot. 

It’s important to keep in mind before beginning the journey of becoming a freight pilot that it will cost you around $30,000, and could take around 5 years from start to finish.

During your schooling, you will have the opportunity to rack up flight hours, however, in order to become a freight/cargo pilot, the usual requirements are at least 3,000 hours of flight time, although this can be more depending on the company that you want to fly for.

Many pilots choose to work as flight instructors during this time, which allows them to build up their flight hours while also getting paid.

After you have gained enough flight hours, you can then begin to apply for freight pilot jobs in the same way you would any job. Usually, the initial application process will be conducted online, where you will need to fill out an application form and submit a resume.

If you are invited for an interview, be sure to dress professionally and bring along a physical copy of your resume, your logbook, as well as your rating certificates. 

Can cargo pilots fly passengers?

While it is technically possible for a cargo pilot to fly passengers (they each have their own pressurized cabin area) traveling on a cargo pilot is restricted to cabin crew and sometimes additional flight personnel who need to accompany live cargo.

In addition to this, an exception may be made in very remote areas of the world, where something known as a ‘half and half’ plane is allowed to operate, with one half transporting cargo and the other half transporting passengers.

Besides that, it is generally not possible for the general public to be allowed to fly on a cargo plane. One of the main reasons for this is because most cargo pilots operate aircrafts that do not have the correct license to be able to fly paying passengers.

Additionally, passengers require the help of flight attendants and, as there isn’t much space on these types of flights, it’s not safe to allow paying passengers onboard.

How much does a 747 cargo pilot make?

A number of factors contribute to how much a cargo 747 pilot makes, including the years of service given to the airline, role responsibilities and who the employer is.

Though most 747 pilots fly commercially for United Airlines and Delta Airlines, there are also a great number of cargo airlines that also fly the 747, and their salaries are in a similar vicinity to that of the commercial airline 747 pilots.

On average, those who choose to work as a cargo pilot can expect to make anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000, depending on experience and what airline they are flying for. 

How much does a FedEx pilot make?

FedEx Corporation is an American multinational delivery company that is currently based in Memphis, Tennessee. FedEx is well known for pioneering the courier delivery service industry and created a system that is able to track and provide updates on package whereabouts in real-time. 

It has its own airline known as FedEx Express, which is one of the largest freight airlines in the world and is currently ninth in the world in terms of aircraft size. It is based in Indianapolis International Airport, although FedEx Express has multiple locations based in other areas of the United States.

Interestingly enough, FedEx freight pilots are paid a considerably higher amount than those that work for other courier companies such as Atlas, Prime Air, and UPS.

On average, the pilot in command at FedEx can expect to make around $313 an hour, a fixed monthly guarantee of 74 hours, as well as a per diem pay of $2.30 an hour for all domestic flights, with that figure rising to $3.15 an hour for all international flights. 

How much do UPS pilots make an hour?

United Parcel Services (commonly known as UPS) is an American multinational package delivery company that has its very own cargo airline that goes by the name of UPS Airlines. They are based in Louisville, Kentucky, and fly to over 779 destinations worldwide which is the most out of any airline in the world! 

Besides its main hub at Louisville International Airport, UPS also has flying bases in other parts of the world, including China, Hong Kong, and even Germany. At the time of writing, UPS has over 2000 cargo pilots employed, and their base salary begins at $50,000 and can raise anywhere up to $200,000 after working for UPS for a certain number of years.

With that being said, a UPS pilot in command will make around $308 an hour, with junior first officers making around $65 an hour. If you would like to become a cargo pilot for UPS, you will need to meet their pilot requirements, which are as follows:

  • At least 1,000 hours served as a pilot in command
  • At least 5,000 pilot hours under your flying belt
  • Experience in flying large aircraft on long haul international flight routes