What is seniority system?

Most of airlines operate on a seniority-based system. The longest employed pilot is the highest on the seniority list, whereas the fresh pilot is the lowest. When employed by an airline, pilots get a seniority number. This number stays with them throughout their career at the airline, affecting its advancement. The sooner they are hired by an airline, the quicker they start gaining seniority over others and move up on the airline’s seniority list.

Your airline seniority as a pilot determines:

  • Which monthly schedule a pilot has, the routes they fly and when they take a vacation.
  • Which location they are based in and what aircraft they fly;
  • How soon they upgrade from a First Officer to Captain, impacting the salary, etc.

During layoffs, the airlines do so in reverse seniority order. Senior pilots will be far more likely to maintain their jobs, aircraft positions, and quality of life.