Pilot salary in South Africa 2024: How Much Do they Earn?

Joseph Wenani
19 Min Read

South Africa’s aviation industry is soaring, and the demand for skilled pilots is rising. With major airlines constantly recruiting, it’s an exciting time for those looking to navigate the skies. But what does this mean for a pilot’s paycheck? Let’s delve into the average pilot salary in South Africa as we look towards 2024.

As a pilot in South Africa, your earnings can depend on various factors such as your ranking, employer, experience, time spent flying, and the type of aircraft you’re piloting. Whether you’re just starting or a seasoned professional, knowing what you can expect to earn is important.

In this article, we’ll explore the potential earnings for pilots in South Africa, from entry-level positions to the most experienced aviators. We’ll dive into the numbers, breaking down the annual, monthly, and hourly rates to give you a clear picture of the future.

Factors Affecting Pilot Salary in South Africa

There are several key components that influence a pilot’s salary in South Africa. These variables come from different dimensions of a pilot’s job and personal capabilities.


With Experience, a pilot can expect to see a significant impact on their salary. From a fresh-faced aviator with less than two years of experience earning approximately 33,500 ZAR per month to a seasoned pilot of 15-20 years walking away with about 78900 ZAR monthly.

Here’s a quick overview:

Years of ExperienceAverage Monthly Salary (ZAR)
0 – 2 Years33,500
2 – 5 Years43,100
5 – 10 Years59,500
10 – 15 Years73,700
15 – 20 Years78,900

Type of Aircraft

The Type of Aircraft a pilot commands also influences their earnings considerably. For instance, if we compare the average salaries of a helicopter pilot, earning about 30078 ZAR per month, to a private pilot pulling in around 57000 ZAR monthly, it’s clear the equipment matters.


The employer paying a pilot’s wages also plays a significant role in salary determination. The payout can differ depending on whether it’s a private company or a government entity. Private companies offer about 7% more than their public counterparts across various sectors. On average, a captain flying for a globally recognized entity like Emirates can anticipate earnings ranging from R196k – R53.


Location within South Africa can sometimes be a factor. Living costs, commuting, and accommodation considerations can indirectly affect a pilot’s salary or their net take-home after costs.


Last but certainly not least, a pilot’s Qualifications can directly impact their earning potential. A military pilot, for instance, must undergo far more rigorous and specialized training than an ordinary pilot. Consequently, their average salary amounts to R540212, which is a testament to the value of their exceptional skill set.

As a budding or experienced pilot, understanding how these factors can affect your potential earnings is essential. It equips you with knowledge that could ultimately help you navigate the aviation industry’s salary landscape.

Average pilot salary in South Africa today.

Navigating through the dynamic field of aviation isn’t straightforward. As you coil up the aviation ladder, you’ll realize that several factors influence the remuneration package in this sector. Let’s shed some light on how these factors come into play from various piloting roles.

Helicopter Pilot Salary in South Africa

Let’s begin with helicopter pilots. Based on education levels, a helicopter pilot with a certificate or diploma stands to earn an average salary of 335,800 ZAR annually. Those with bachelor’s degrees see a significant increase, earning 453,200 ZAR on average. Helicopter pilots holding master’s degrees earn an even higher average salary of 693,100 ZAR annually.

Education Level% IncreaseAverage Annual Salary (ZAR)
Bachelor’s Degree34%453,200
Master’s Degree53%693,100

Certainly, higher education levels lead to higher income, reflecting the return on investing in further education.

Emirates Pilot Salary in South Africa

A leading airline worldwide, Emirates, offers competitive compensation packages to its employees. The average Emirates pilot salary in South Africa ranges from 196,000 ZAR to 531,000 ZAR annually, with an average income of about 340,667.

Private Pilot Salary in South Africa

Pilots working in the private sector also enjoy decent compensation. Based on the career fields, the average salary in the private sector is around 30,400 ZAR monthly.

Employment Sector% DifferenceAverage Monthly Salary (ZAR)
Private Sector30,400
Public Sector (Government)7%32,400

Overall, the private sector doesn’t lag far behind the government sector in terms of remuneration, which is only 7% more on average.

Military Pilot Salary in South Africa (Jet Pilot)

For those planning to serve their country, jet pilots in the military also get fairly compensated. The remuneration is confidential for security reasons, but you can expect to make a comfortable living as a jet pilot in the military sector. The average salary for a military pilot in SA is R540,212.

Captain’s Salary in South Africa per Month

Lastly, the rewards are significant for those who have reached the top of the aviation ladder and serve as captains. While it does involve greater responsibility, it also carries a higher pay scale, making it a dream role for many pilots in the industry. In South Africa, a Captain earns between R60,000 and R80,000 per month.

Remember this is just a snippet of what you can earn in the aviation industry. Additional benefits such as bonuses and allowances are also integral to the overall compensation package.

The Reality Beyond the Salary

When assessing a career in aviation, it’s essential to consider factors beyond monetary compensation. The cost of training, lifestyle implications, and the competitive nature of the job market significantly influence a pilot’s experience in South Africa.

Cost of Training

Pursuing a career as a pilot is a significant investment, both in terms of time and finances. Potential pilots must obtain a series of licenses, undergo extensive training, and accrue many flight hours before being considered for employment by an airline. These costs can add up to a substantial sum, making it vital for aspiring pilots to factor them into their career planning.

Lifestyle and Schedule

Beyond financial considerations, weighing the lifestyle implications of being a pilot is crucial. Pilots often work irregular hours, including early mornings, late nights, weekends, and holidays. Long-haul pilots, in particular, can spend extended periods away from home. This irregularity and absence from home can impact a pilot’s work-life balance and should be considered when contemplating a career in this field.

Job Market Competitiveness

Finally, the competitive nature of the aviation industry cannot be ignored. Landing a job as a pilot is no easy feat, particularly in South Africa. With the fall of career airlines like SAA, young aviators are left with fewer options and increased competition. Smaller airlines such as Airlink, FlySafair, and Cemair can offer rapid experience gain but are often seen as stepping stones rather than long-term career options.

However, every industry has its perks and challenges. The reality beyond the salary in the aviation industry is that it’s a dynamic and competitive field. Remember the initial investment required, the lifestyle adjustments you might need to make, and the competitive nature of the job market. Those navigating these realities can find a rewarding career soaring through the skies.

How to Become a Pilot in South Africa

Interested in joining the growing aviation industry in South Africa? Thousands have the same dream as you! It’s understandably so – pilots in the country receive lucrative compensation packages after going through dedicated training. Here’s what you need to know about becoming a pilot in South Africa, along with average costs and reputable flight schools to consider.

1. Meet Basic Requirements:

  • You must be at least 17 to start pilot training in South Africa.
  • You must be at least a high school graduate (Class 12).
  • You Must have at least a level 4 English standard before receiving your pilot license.

2. Choose Training Stages:

  • Student Pilot License (SPL): The first license allowing you to start flight training
  • Private Pilot License (PPL): Enables you to fly solo for recreational purposes
  • Commercial Pilot License (CPL): Allows you to become a paid professional pilot
  • Instrument Rating (IR): Permits flying in various weather conditions.
  • Multi-Engine Rating (MER): Allows flying multi-engine aircraft
  • Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL): The highest level of pilot certification

3. Choose a Flight School

Select a flight school that suits your budget and training needs. Costs vary based on the country, flight school, and other factors.

4. Complete Training and Obtain Licenses

Progress through the training stages, pass theoretical exams, accumulate flight hours, and obtain the necessary licenses such as PPL, CPL, IR, MER, and ATPL.

5. Consider Career Options

Once you have completed your training and obtained the required licenses, you can explore various career opportunities in aviation, including working as an airline pilot.

Cost Estimates

Pilot training doesn’t come cheap. It’s a significant investment both in terms of time and finances. The cost of becoming a pilot in South Africa can fluctuate between training specialities and flight schools but generally ranges from R500,000 to R800,000. This expense covers all your training stages – from your SPL to CPL. Bear in mind these costs can increase depending on the number of flight hours and any bias towards certain aircraft types.

Average Cost of Pilot Training

Training StageCost (Rands)
Student Pilot License (SPL)20,000 – 30,000
Private Pilot License (PPL)100,000 – 200,000
Night Rating15,000 – 20,000
Commercial Pilot License (CPL)450,000 – 550,000

Keep in mind that other costs can also affect your training’s overall price, like examination fees, equipment, and insurance.

Where can I study to be a pilot in South Africa?

Aspiring pilots have several commendable options for flight schools in South Africa. The following institutions have solid reputations and track records for producing skilled and competent pilots:

  1. Progress Flight Academy – They provide world-class pilot training for the Commercial Pilot Licence with multi-engine Instrument Rating (CPL/IR-ME)
  2. Johannesburg Flying Academy – They offer training for National Pilot Licence, Private Pilot Licence, and more, focusing on flying Sling Aircraft.
  3. Lanseria Flight Centre – They provide professional, world-class pilot training for domestic and international aviation students, catering to full-time and part-time training.
  4. Johannesburg School of Flying -They offer a variety of training courses, including Private Pilot License, Commercial Pilot License, Instrument Rating, and more.

Remember, the costs can vary among these flight schools, so it’s essential to research and factor them in when budgeting for your training.

What does a pilot earn in South Africa?

As we dive deeper into the subject matter, it’s important to highlight the correlation between educational attainment and earnings. Let’s take the case of a Helicopter Pilot for instance. Those holding a certificate or diploma earn an average salary of 335,800 ZAR. On the other hand, a pilot with a Bachelor’s degree can attract an average salary of 453,200 ZAR. But it’s the pilots with a Master’s degree who bring home the biggest paycheck, commanding an average salary of 693,100 ZAR.

Education LevelAverage Salary in ZAR
Certificate or Diploma335,800
Bachelor’s Degree453,200
Master’s Degree693,100

Investing in a Master’s degree isn’t cheap. Postgraduate programs in South Africa usually run from 156,000 to 467,000 ZAR and can take two years to complete. However, the significant increase in earning potential these programs offer is a testament to their value.

Let’s shift our focus to the pilot salary in South Africa across different companies or airlines. These figures aren’t etched in stone and can vary based on your experience, educational level, and the company you work for. The average monthly salary for a pilot in South Africa is around 546,555 ZAR, ranging from R28,300 as a starting salary to R90,000 for seasoned pilots.

To make this information more digestible, here’s a breakup of average monthly salaries offered by major airlines:

Company/AirlinesAverage Monthly Salary in ZAR
South African Airways82,000
Solenta Aviation62,000
Sahara African Aviation61,234
Federal Airlines10,523

As we continue to unravel more insights about piloting in South Africa, we’ll further delve into factors that can influence these earnings.

Which airline pays the most in South Africa?

To answer this question, some key factors need to be considered. These include considering company size, industry influence, and the airline’s reputation for generosity towards their pilots.

Bonuses also play a vital role in total earnings. Notably, 82% of pilots have reported receiving a financial bonus, where the bonus rates can range from 5% to 9% of their annual salary. Therefore, airlines that provide substantial bonuses can significantly augment overall pilot compensation.

Let’s dive a bit further into the stated remunerations, breaking down the matter of how much a pilot makes per hour in this region. The average hourly wage for a pilot in South Africa stands at 330 ZAR. This constant hourly income, coupled with bonuses, helps drive pilots’ total earnings higher.

Considering monthly wage brackets, we’ve noted a range from 28,300 ZAR to as high as 90,000 ZAR per month. The median salary for airline pilots in South Africa is 58,900 ZAR per month. This indicates that 50% of pilots earn less, while the other half earn more than this figure. Ideally, aspiring and established pilots would aim to secure a spot on the right side of this graph – within the higher-earning group.

South African Pilot Salary PercentilesSalary (ZAR)
Minimum Earnings (Monthly)28,300
25th Percentile (Monthly)39,200
Median Earnings (Monthly)58,900
75th Percentile (Monthly)75,900
Maximum Earnings (Monthly)90,000

Accounting for years of experience, the average salary can increase over time in South Africa – by about 5% every 12 months. However, it’s essential to consider that not all companies provide cash salary increases, opting for enhanced benefit packages instead, which can be just as valuable.

The best-paying airline would most likely excel in all aspects: generous basic pay, bonus schemes, and potential pay raises – monetary or in terms of benefits.


So, it’s clear that a pilot’s salary in South Africa can vary greatly. Factors like company size, industry, and the inclusion of financial bonuses largely influence it. With 82% of pilots enjoying bonuses, this can significantly boost earnings. The average hourly wage is 330 ZAR, and monthly salaries can swing from 28,300 ZAR to 90,000 ZAR. The sweet spot? That’d be the median monthly salary of 58,900 ZAR for airline pilots. Remember, salaries can see an annual increase of about 5% with experience. It’s all about landing a role with an airline that offers competitive basic pay, attractive bonuses, and the potential for pay raises or benefits. That’s how to maximize your earnings as a pilot in South Africa come 2024.

All The Best

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