Real Answers from Real Pilots

Freight vs Passenger Flying?

Can you explain some of the difference between working for a “freight dog” and a passenger airline? How much more are they paid? Why? Are the captain and flight engineer the only people on the plane? If that’s the case can one feel like it’s a more “isolated” job since there is no crew or passengers?

Theodore,

Hope you don’t mind but I moved this post to it’s own topic since it’s really different from the thread it was on. Anyway to your questions. There are many differences flying freight vs passengers, many of which depends on the airline you’re flying for. Some of the biggest, most noticeable difference are when and where you fly. Most passengers operations fly when it’s convenient or desirable for the pax (passengers), boxes don’t really care. With that you’ll find there’s a lot of “backside of the clock” flying (12am - 5am) so the packages can be where they need to be early. Also it’s not unusual for cargo pilots to be away for longer periods of time. I have friends at Atlas and they can be gone 17 days in a row literally flying around the planet.

As for pay, yes FedEx and UPS are some of the highest paid pilots in the industry but other companies like Atlas and Kalitta are not. The salaries at the Major pax airlines have come up considerably the last couple of years and the gap is much smaller. The main reason FedEx and UPS pilots get paid more is simply there’s much more profit flying cargo. The companies make more so they pay more.

Depending on the aircraft, there will always be a Capt and a First Officer. Some of the older planes (747-200, 727) flying still have Flight Engineers but they’re all but gone other than at few freight carriers. The longer flights will be augmented with at least 1 additional FO. The longest will have 2 full crews (2 CAs, 2 FOs). That’s another big difference. Some pilots love the interaction with the flight attendants and pax, others do not. If you’re a people person sure you may feel isolated but if you’re not it’s probably easier. Boxes don’t complain, they don’t get sick and they generally will never attack you.

There are pros and cons to both. A few years ago I had wanted to fly cargo but I got my dream job at Hawaiian instead. I have friends who love it and those who don’t. Definitely something to look into if it interests you.

Adam

Thank you Adam very helpful information.