Real Answers from Real Pilots

How can I fly for an international airline?

(Matt Abt) #1

Hello…I have my PPL and am considering enrolling in ATP with the ultimate goal of working for an international airline. Is there anything different I should do pre, during or post ATP to accomplish that goal?

Thanks in advance!



Hello Matt and Welcome,

That’s one of the real benefits of training with ATP. Other than work hard and do well they will lead and assist you with your goal. ATP guarantees you an instructor position and will arrange for your interview at a Regional in as little as 500hrs. Train hard, build your time, get hired and you’re on your way. Obviously this is all contingent on you doing well and being a good pilot but there really is no better or more efficient route to a career in aviation.




When you say “an international airline” do you mean a US based airline that flies overseas or an airline based in a foreign county? There are major differences in the certifications needed to fly for a foreign based airline, so let me know and we will go from there.


(Matt Abt) #4

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your response. I mean an international airline like Qatar/Thai Airways, etc. Would could an American citizen like me do, if anything, to fly for one of them? Also, if I were to enroll at ATP, is there anything I should do differently while in training there to improve my chances?

Thanks a lot for your help,




I will be honest in that I am not totally familiar with the requirements to fly for the various foreign carriers, although I do believe that some of the middle eastern carriers will honor your FAA certificates while european carriers require you to have european certificates. I would recommend that you get in touch with the specific airlines you are interested in and ask them what their requirements are, I would also check with their host country’s version of the FAA.

I have to ask, why do you desire to work for those particular airlines? I may be incorrect here, but it has always been my understanding that pay and working conditions are best at US airlines.




I have to disagree with Chris on this one, at least on pay. I have a number of friends working for Middle Eastern carriers and the pay and benefits far surpass those in the US. Those I know who have left did so for one of 2 reasons, living in the Middle East or the lack of a contract/union. While place like Dubai offer all the modern conveniences, it’s still a kingdom and an Islamic state. and frankly from what I understand some of the freedoms we take for granted just don’t exist. The second is, like it or not, everything here in the US is based on seniority and we have certain contract protections. What that means is when your seniority affords it you will upgrade, move to another aircraft, base etc. Over there you may or you may not. If they decide you’re not ready (or worthy) of a move you won’t and there’s really nothing you can do about it.

Literally every pilot I know who’s gone there has done it for a time, banked some serious cash but they all come back. Not discouraging you or telling you it’s a bad idea, just FYI.


(Matt Abt) #7

Thanks a lot, Chris and Adam, for your replies. I lived overseas when I was younger and it was a great experience and something I’d love to do again - that’s the basis of my interest.

Sounds like I just need to do some more research.

Thanks again,




Welcome to the forums.

Good questions about international flying. To begin with I did fly internationally for four years. I mostly flew to Europe, but occasionally South America as well. I came back to the 737 last year to enjoy my seniority and thus largely fly domestic now, but occasionally go to Canada and Mexico. I enjoyed the international flying, I am glad that I got the chance to do it.

At major airlines pilots bid what type of aircraft they want to fly based on their seniority. Typically the larger airplanes go more senior as they pay more. Also typically those large airplane fly international routes. So pilots that bid to fly large airplanes such as the 767 or 777 do so knowing that they are essentially bidding to fly internationally.

There is additional training that is required to fly overseas, at United we call it an “area qualification”. There are several “areas” that we can be certified for, such as Europe, South America, and Asia. I am qualified for all of them. There is an additional certification called "Extended Over-water Operations (ETOPS) that is the qualification needed to fly oceanic routes. Once a pilot bids an airplane that needs area qualifications or an ETOPS certification the airline will provide the training necessary and yes, any pilot wanting to do this type of flying needs to go through these classes. There is no training that a pilot would do prior to this on his or her own outside of the airline.

So to get to the root of your question, if you would like to someday fly internationally there is nothing that you can or should do now other than normal flight training. The airlines will handle all of the international training necessary when you bid onto an airplane that flys such routes.

I hope this helps, let me know what other questions you have.




That’s really a tough one. As far as things improving I’m not sure they will or can since things right now are the best I’ve ever seen. The question in my mind is can we maintain them? The airline industry in many ways is tied to the economy. Inflation, the price of oil, etc all factor in. World crisis as well can have a extreme impacts on the industry. While the tragedy of 9/11 without question was the loss of life, it did have a devastating effect on the airline industry. The biggest problem in all this is when the airlines begin to suffer, the first thing they do is look for concessions from their work groups. Virtually every Major airline that was around when I was a child no longer exists. Pan Am, TWA, Eastern, National, Braniff all gone. I’m not trying to be negative or paint a dark picture but the airline industry has never been known for it’s stability.

That all said I do believe the consolidation of the airlines will help with some of the volatility and the fact is no matter what people will need to get from point A to point B. Economic and/or National notwithstanding, I think we’ll be ok.


(Andrew) #12

Matt, I am not a pilot but lived in Asia for a long time (including Thailand). I was friends with quite a few Americans that flew for Korean, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Singapore. They lived in Phuket with their families and had to commute over to Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. A foreigner cannot get hired at Thai though as there are tons of ex Thai Royal Navy pilots (most of the Thai crews come from there). You can look at some of the firms that provide contracted pilots to the Asian and middle eastern airlines (Rishworth is the biggest agency) to see the pay, rostering, benefits, etc.

(Matt Abt) #13

Hi Andrew - that is great information, thank you! I actually lived in Thailand when I was younger and would love to fly in Asia. Thanks so much.