Stock - Emirates pilot / First officers
Even as salaries rise for key personnel, airlines will activate their internal pilot training programmes to keep the pipeline busy. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: UAE airlines are already offering some of the best pay and cost of living packages for their pilots, which makes it unlikely for regional or international carriers to poach them. This is also why local carriers are not opting for the sort of salary hikes seen at others, as the industry continues to cope with staff shortages post-pandemic.

“Airlines here are already offering a great compensation and living package to those with wide body-aircraft experience, and experience with an international route network,” said Maximilian Buerger, MD of and, which are two pilot training platforms. “I do see airlines increasing their focus on re-activating or developing their own pilot training programs to train the next generation of pilots and create a pilot supply pipeline for themselves.”

Still face pilot shortage

The executive’s comments come as the Middle East is expected to face a pilot shortage as early as end of 2022. This is because of a further spike in air travel even as pilot numbers decline due to a combination of past layoffs and a falling number of newly certified pilots and retirements.

According to the consultancy Oliver Wyman, the regional shortage will reach an estimated 3,000 pilots by 2023 and 18,000 by 2032 if no accelerated mitigation actions are taken.

Maximilian Buerger

The Middle East carriers were one of the first to rehire/hire pilots compared to other regions, which meant they could hire quite a few very experienced unemployed pilots who in their own country did not find work

- Maximilian Buerger, MD of and

Handsome packages

According to current estimates, an Emirates airline captain, who flies the Airbus A380 and the B777, would earn a basic salary of Dh42,695 and a housing allowance of Dh16,075 plus average flying pay. In total, the person in that role earns more than Dh58,000 per month.

A First Officer with the Dubai airline gets a basic pay of Dh30,125 and a housing allowance of Dh14,325 – this sums up to more than Dh44,000 in a month. In comparison, Qatar Airways pilots typically earn around Dh25,000 per month, with some receiving a pay-check of up to Dh40,000. Saudi Arabia-based pilots earn around Dh27,000 per month. (These numbers were seen on several popular job portals.) Pilot salaries in India – the region’s largest domestic aviation market – are on the lower end. The average salary of an airline pilot is about Dh18,000 per month, but more experienced staff can earn up to Dh38,000 per month, according to Jobted.

In terms of compensation, US comes closest to UAE with an average pilot salary of Dh44,000 per month. Pilots can earn anywhere between Dh38,000 and Dh50,000.

Offer triple raises

The US, which is the world’s largest aviation market, is facing possibly its worst staffing shortage in history and airlines are offering everything from higher pay to financial backing for trainee pilots. Last month, American Airlines’ regional carrier Envoy Air was offering pilots triple pay to pick up trips and avoid flight disruptions during the peak summer travel season.

Some markets seem to be moving past the disruptions as the summer travel demand shows signs of easing. Gatwick, London’s second largest airport, said it will end capacity caps this month, bringing some relief to travellers as schedule reductions at the UK capital’s larger Heathrow hub continue through the winter season.

“There appears to be growing concern about the last quarter of the year as a combination of economic news and limited visibility around corporate demand is finally beginning to get the attention it deserves,” wrote John Grant, aviation analyst, in an OAG article. “Whilst airline CEOs have a fine line to tread in being confident in future performance and realistic, those that are, can smell the coffee and getting a bit more cautious about the winter season.”