The cost to become a commercial airline pilot can be a significant one – up to $80,000 in fact when you include tuition and equipment costs like aviation headsets, flight bags, and aviation handheld radios.

Thankfully, becoming an airline pilot isn’t limited to just the privileged few, though.

Airlines offer aspiring pilots scholarships and tuition reimbursement programs that can help offset the high cost of training to become an airline pilot.

While an airline won’t completely pay for flight training, you can expect to save anything from a couple of thousand dollars to $30,000.

10 Airlines That Pay for Flight Training

Most regional airlines offer some form of tuition reimbursement to lower the cost of flight training.

Here are ten of the most popular airlines that students have had very good experiences with:

  1. Envoy Air (American Airlines)
  2. SkyWest Airlines (Delta Airlines)
  3. Mesa Airlines (United Airlines)
  4. Horizon Air (Alaska Airlines)
  5. Piedmont Airlines (American Airlines)
  6. GoJet Airlines (Delta Airlines)
  7. Compass Airlines (Delta Airlines)
  8. ExpressJet Airlines (United Airlines)
  9. CommutAir (United Airlines)
  10. Republic Airways (Delta Airlines)

skywest airlines plane on the runway

Fully Sponsored Pilot Training

There are a number of fully sponsored pilot training programs available.

  1. Airways Aviation – Part Flight Training Sponsorship
  2. The Honourable Company of Air Pilots (GAPAN)
  3. AOPA-Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association fully sponsored pilot training
  4. EAA Young Eagles fully sponsored pilot training program
  5. Women in Aviation fully sponsored pilot training Scholarships
  6. Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals: OBAP Scholarships
  7. National Gay Pilot Association Scholarships
  8. The 99s fully sponsored pilot training Scholarships
  9. Air Line Pilots Association Scholarship
  10. Early Childhood Educators Scholarship Program
  11. GRCF Joshua Esch Mitchell Aviation Scholarship
  12. LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Fully sponsored pilot training Scholarships
  13. National Aviation Explorer Scholarships

Eligible Flight Schools

Getting an airline to pay for flight training isn’t usually quite as simple as enrolling in a flight school and receiving a check every month.

This even includes enrolling in the best online ground schools.

Airlines partner and are affiliated with specific flight schools that create a carefully choreographed flight training program, so you can gain all the necessary skills and knowledge required of safe and competent airline pilots.

This includes working as a Flight Instructor once your instruction has finished.

Additionally, a flight school that has partnered with an airline also makes the prospect of getting hired much simpler.

Interestingly, in 2020 United Airlines took the unique step of purchasing a flight-training academy in order to have more direction over recruitment, development, and training.

The academy is an extension of the airline’s Aviate program, which aims to hire more than 10,000 pilots in the next decade.

United Airline's Aviate Academy

We wouldn’t be surprised if other airlines followed suit in the coming years, along with an emphasis on encouraging women and minority candidates to apply through scholarship programs.

Fast Track to the Major Airlines

It’s typical for regional airlines to have contractual flow-through agreements, which means that once you have met all the requirements, you will transfer directly to the major airline.

As most pilots who want to fly as a career have the ultimate goal of becoming an international airline pilot, this can be a hugely appealing prospect.

Working as a pilot for a major airline (American Airlines)
The goal is to work as an international pilot for a major airline

So with the obvious benefit of an airline contributing towards the cost of your flight training, as well as getting hired more easily, and having a very clear path to the majors, surely you should do everything in your power to enroll in an airline-sponsored flight training program. It’s a no-brainer, right?

In many cases, it really is a great opportunity. But remember that airlines will expect certain conditions to be met.

One of these is that you are usually expected to work as a Flight Instructor with the flight school you enrolled in to accrue the necessary hours required of airline pilots too (1,500 Rule).

You might therefore not have the option to take on other commercial pilot roles.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.