Do you know or heard of anyone who got hired by a regional airline and chose to remain at that airline for the rest of his or her career? I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many pilots out there who choose to do that so they can have a good schedule, be with family, and still make a lot of money as a captain. On Airline Pilot Central I saw that most captains at regionals top off at $100 or more per flight hour, which is very good. Also, does a first-year captain at a regional have a better schedule than a first-year FO at a major airline or does it depend on other factors?
I do know several pilots who have chosen to make their careers at the regionals. I have always thought this was a short sighted as the pay and quality of life is at the majors. Major airline pilots make significantly more than regional pilots and depending on the fleet type that they are on can have considerably more days off. I have heard the arguments for staying at the regionals and I don’t really buy into them unless age is really a factor.
As to scheduling, there are so many factors that go into that that it would be very hard to make a blanket statement one way or another to that affect.
I think that you will find that you will want to work for the majors someday. That being said, you are right about regional Captain pay being pretty decent and the schedules can be rather good as well.
The airline that I am at, SkyWest, is known for the large number of pilots that choose to stay. I myself am very motivated to get the hours and get hired at mainline as quick as possible, and I still believe that I will. But from talking to fellow pilots, I can see why some choose to pass on the upgrade.
First of all, the situation changes completely once you have a family. A lot of the pilots that are right around the time where they are eligible to move on to mainline, have kids at a young age. Having to give up your 8-12 years of seniority means that they might miss out on important events like holidays, birthdays, etc.
Second, just like you said, senior captain pay at most regionals is upwards of $120k, and that is a decent paycheck that most people can do just fine with.
Third, a transition to mainline for most pilots (not including the lucky ones who get picked up as regional FOs) means dropping to the bottom of the barrel for a third time (once as a new-hire FO, and once after upgrading to CA).
Again, I believe that as long as you are flexible family-wise, there is no reason not to go to mainline. The increase in pay is definitely worth the few years of being junior again.
I have many friends who are “lifers” and are very happy at the Regionals. It’s all about priorities. For me it wasn’t so much the money but a desire to reach a certain goal in my life. Since I was a child I dreamed of flying a heavy to Asia. Being able to actually say I’ve done that gives me a feeling of personal satisfaction. Oh yea and the money ain’t a bad thing either