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Old 06-20-2014, 04:12 PM   #1  
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Default How does pay system work at regionals?

I am a college student working on my Commercial rating and want to have a better understanding of how the pay system at a airline works such as per diem and dead head and all that stuff. Any info would be great. Thanks!
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Old 06-20-2014, 07:11 PM   #2  
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Originally Posted by Littleforrest9 View Post
I am a college student working on my Commercial rating and want to have a better understanding of how the pay system at a airline works such as per diem and dead head and all that stuff. Any info would be great. Thanks!
Littleforrest,
At the regionals, pay is generally "block-to-block." That means you get paid starting when the brake is released or the door is closed, and stop getting paid when the brake is set or the door is opened. Most airlines today pay for the greater of what you are scheduled to fly, or what you actually fly. So, if you are flying a 90 minute leg, and hold for 30 minutes, you will get paid for 2:00 hours. If you are scheduled for 90 minutes and get in :15 minutes early, you get paid for 90 minutes. Most airlines also pay for cancellations or if the company takes you off the trip so they can use it for training.

If you call in sick, generally, you are paid for the scheduled flight time, assuming you have the hours in your sick bank to cover it.

Per diem starts when you check in for the trip, which is usually an hour prior to departure (often less for a scheduled deadhead [DH], say :30 or :45 minutes). It ends when you are officially released from duty, and that varies from one company to the next. At Comair, we were released :20 minutes after block-in. Another regional I worked for released you :15 minutes after block-in. That window of time is there for you to clean the cockpit, take care of any last-minute administrative duties, do the walk-around, and if necessary, to clear Customs in Mexico or Canada.

Anyway, the per diem time as discussed above is referred to as Time Away From Base (TAFB). If the trip is an out-and-back (that is, a 1 day trip), many regionals will not pay per diem, and it doesn't matter if the original trip was an out-and-back or if it turned into one because of a cancellation. The rationale for this is two fold: per diem for 1 day trips is taxable, and will be reported as such; secondarily, for 1 day trips, the theory (both from the airlines and the IRS) is that you can bring your own food from home.

If a company does pay for out-and-back per diem, and if you have seniority to hold those trips, you might find yourself bumped into another tax bracket...I've seen it happen.

Per diem usually pays somewhere around $1.20 to $1.70 per hour during the TAFB at the regionals, which equates to $25-35 per 24 hour day. As a line-holder, you can make $400-600 a month in per diem, and as long as you are on over-nights, that money is tax free (it's also a good incentive to bring as much of your own food with you as you can, since it's a) healthier, and b) cheaper).

Deadheads are an area where the regionals tend to really screw their pilots: DH pay is usually paid at 50-75% of the total travel time, so if you DH for an hour, you might only get paid for :45 minutes, or God forbid, :30 minutes. At the majors, you get paid full block.

There are usually subtle differences from one company to the next, and they are spelled out in the union contracts or the company policy manuals. There are usually set pay allowances for training events, vacation, etc. What one company pays you for, another may not. But what I have described is a fairly common methodology used for the actual flying and per diem.

I am pasting below a response I wrote about regional pay on another thread. It goes into the trip-and-duty rig issue, and might help answer any other questions you may come up with.

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Originally Posted by JetRage View Post
I've been working for a regional airline for 2 years now. Ever since I started I've been trying to figure out the logic behind only paying pilots based on block hours rather than duty time. So when I say I'm scratching my head over it still, it's only because I haven't been able to get a good answer yet. Has it always been done that way? Is there some history there I don't know about?

Every other job I've had from burger flipping to truck driving we clocked in at the beginning of the day and clocked out at the end of it. Who's decision was it that we should only get paid when the break is released? This is not a rant. I'm just looking for the logic if there is any.

It seems to me that a lot of the frustration related to this industry would be alleviated if we were paid by duty time or by a hybrid system. Even at the flight school I instructed at we were given a retainer in addition to hour pay for flight time that justified our being there. How is it that even flight schools have a more sophisticated salary system than the airlines we were training for?

Now some airlines have contractual language that deters or prevents pilots from being kept sitting around up to the max duty period allowed under Part 117. However airlines have been known to go bankrupt which seems to nullify such contractual agreements.

How much better would it be then if we were paid at least minimum wage while not blocked out or while waiting for scheduling to book us a hotel at the end of the day. It seems to me that it would alleviate a large percentage of the bickering with scheduling or the need for trip/duty rigs.
JetRage,
There actually is a history behind it. When ALPA first started, one of their goals was to have pilots treated--and paid--like professionals. There are generally three "professions" in the classic sense: doctors, lawyers, and accountants, all of whom are at some point paid by the hour (surgeons are paid by the procedure). ALPA was aiming for the same level of recognition for pilots. Even if you accept that pilots are really more like a trade or a craft (which, in reality, is what we are), tradesmen and craftsmen also tend to get paid by the hour. Think of your local electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc. There may be a service fee involved, but almost all charge some sort of hourly rate.

That said, as professionals, we are only getting paid when we are practicing the "craft" of flying, which is generally defined as brake release to brake set.

Over time, the contracts at the majors addressed the issue of unproductive trips with trip-and-duty rigs. With the trip rig, you are guaranteed to be paid one hour of pay for so many hours of time away from base (TAFB), which also determines per diem for the majority of us. A good trip rig is one hour of pay for every 3.5 hours away from base (1:3.5). The duty rig looks at each day of work on the trip, and it pays you a minimum of so many hours of pay per day (5.0 hours being considered a historically good number, though I believe SWA pays 6.0 per day). At the end of the trip or the month, you look back and take the greater of the trip rig, the min day values, or the actual hours flown, and that's what you get paid.

Other unions followed suit, and once one company jumped on the bandwagon, it made it easier for others to do the same.

Most regionals don't get any kind of rig. When I was at Comair, we had rigs that were based on a look back at the end of the month (as opposed to using the rig to look forward, which would force more days off when your schedule is actually built). Even with a look-back rig, I had many months where the rig paid me extra money. Unfortunately, there has been relatively little success in getting rigs at the regionals. The companies tend to cry wolf, and claim that it will cost them too much money, and the pilots tend to accept a slightly higher pay rate in lieu of the rigs, especially since no pilot at a regional ever thinks s/he will be at that regional long enough to care.

Done correctly, trip-and-duty rigs incentivize both management and the pilots. For the company, there is a motive to make the trips as productive as possible (or, alternatively, where they have no choice, to minimize crappy trips). For the pilot, not only are there more days off, but you usually will lose some money on a sick call, because you often only get paid for the block time, not the lost "soft" time, thus minimizing the need for extra reserves. In theory, the rigs force the company to optimize trips as well as individual duty periods, which should lead to a decrease in fatigue. The concept of the rig precedes the jet age, so in that respect it's a bit dated.

As an example of a rig minimizing crappy trips, I just finished a 5 day trip. I did a 5:00 hour DH, flew 3 legs worth 10 hours, but got paid min. day for each day, for a total credit of 25 hours. It's not ideal from the company point of view, but on the trip in question, it's the only way to build it.

If you really want to get to the details, you can read the Flying the Line books that tell the history of ALPA. The first volume goes into a lot of detail about the how's, why's, and ways that we get paid.

The fractionals pay a monthly salary, which is then used to work backwards to compute an hourly rate for various penalties that the company must pay. Pilots, especially (but not only) ALPA, have historically fought against salaries for fear that a) there will be fewer opportunities to make extra money, and b) that the company will try extract more flying from the pilot, thus decreasing the cost-per-hour of the pilot, and decreasing the number of jobs at a given carrier.

To answer the question of whether or not we do it this way because "that's the way that it's always been done," yes, to a degree that's the case. But there is a logic and history to it. And now you know...the rest of the story.
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Old 06-21-2014, 07:36 AM   #3  
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I've got a question about posted pay scales.

How does it work if say, a First Officer at ExpressJet has four years of right seat time making $40/hr? Let's say this First Officer elects to upgrade from a CRJ200 to a CRJ700. Does he/she start over at $23/hr or does he go to $42/hr for his/her four years of flight experience with the company? Is it the same way with Captains?

Another way of asking this question is this: do you get paid for your experience level in a specific aircraft at the company, your overall years experience as either a FO or CA at the company, or your total years at the company with the aircraft being the variable?
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Old 06-21-2014, 08:16 AM   #4  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Voski View Post
I've got a question about posted pay scales.

How does it work if say, a First Officer at ExpressJet has four years of right seat time making $40/hr? Let's say this First Officer elects to upgrade from a CRJ200 to a CRJ700. Does he/she start over at $23/hr or does he go to $42/hr for his/her four years of flight experience with the company? Is it the same way with Captains?

Another way of asking this question is this: do you get paid for your experience level in a specific aircraft at the company, your overall years experience as either a FO or CA at the company, or your total years at the company with the aircraft being the variable?
The more accurate answer is...

...your total years at the company with the aircraft and seat being the variable.

Example: A 10 year FO upgrades to Captain which he/she can only hold on more junior equipment...say 777 to 737. The pay scale for that person would change from a 10 year 777 FO to a 10 year 737 Captain.

Keep in mind that junior base/equipment is a relative term that changes as the crew force decides what is important to them. While it might closely follow pay scales, it doesn't always. Example: there are plenty of senior FOs at FedEx that could easily hold widebody captain in Hong Kong but choose to stay stateside.
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Old 06-21-2014, 04:06 PM   #5  
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Quote:
I've got a question about posted pay scales.

How does it work if say, a First Officer at ExpressJet has four years of right seat time making $40/hr? Let's say this First Officer elects to upgrade from a CRJ200 to a CRJ700. Does he/she start over at $23/hr or does he go to $42/hr for his/her four years of flight experience with the company? Is it the same way with Captains?

Another way of asking this question is this: do you get paid for your experience level in a specific aircraft at the company, your overall years experience as either a FO or CA at the company, or your total years at the company with the aircraft being the variable?
Unfortunately, Pinnacle/Endeavor pilots have a new contract that says that FO's that upgrade will start at year 1 captain pay. It's still a raise, but not as much as it would be if they went to the pay commensurate with their seniority. I hope that this does not become a trend.

However, it's not the first time this has been done. Net Jets did it with the BBJ when they had it, Independence (the old Atlantic Coast, call sign "Blue Ridge") did it with with the Airbus, and Cathay does it as well. It makes more sense if you are going from a relatively small plane to a relatively large one, or when the company needs the savings to make a totally new business model work, a la Independence (which failed anyway, but not because of the employee pay).

But, in the example above, the 4 year ExpressJet FO making $40/hr would go into the captain scales at 4 year pay, so using the numbers on APC, he'd get a bump to $66/hr. At Endeavor, that 4 year FO would instead go to $60/hr. Again, it's a nice bump, but not the $69/hr he'd make under the traditional model.

Just as an FYI, the new pay rates don't usually start until the day you start OE in the new seat. There may also be a clause in the contract that if the training is delayed due to no fault of the pilot, the pilot can get paid his new rate after so many days of waiting. At UAL, a lot of guys are getting paid for equipment that they aren't flying because the training has been delayed.
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Old 06-22-2014, 05:10 AM   #6  
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Thanks for all the responses and clearing things up for me

Safe flying!
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