When it’s time to make important decisions about where to work, pilots should consider pay, medical and retirement benefits and work rules, among other things like the location of bases, progression to higher paying equipment and seats. So pilots considering Frontier Airlines are well armed with information, following are useful facts and needed background information.
Pay – Frontier Airlines pilot compensation is the lowest in the United States for narrow body carriers. In fact, first-year pay lags significantly behind every mainline carrier as well as a staggering number of regional airlines.
Even at the top end of the Frontier pay scale, most senior Captains are close in pay to First Officers at other carriers. The chart below shows that Frontier Captains make only about $10 per hour more than First Officers elsewhere right now. Other sub-par pay and benefit related items make financial comparisons with other carriers even less favorable.
Frontier Airlines had the chance to improve pilot pay pursuant to a bankruptcy agreement under which it promised, “further upward pay adjustments” after meeting year-over-year profitability targets. Even though the Company far exceeded those targets and is one of the industry’s most profitable airlines (with over $200 million of profit last year), management refused to offer any meaningful proposal to increase pay.
Retirement – Company contributions to Frontier pilot retirement accounts are much lower than contributions at virtually all other mainline airlines. After three years of employment, but not before, Frontier Airlines will start to make contributions into a DC account but will not reach the maximum contribution of 6% until a Frontier pilot has been employed at the company for 7 years. Frontier Airlines only contributes $1 for each $2 that a pilot contributes up to a total of 5% of compensation (simply put, a pilot must put 10% of every pay check into retirement in order to get the company 5% match). That means, once a pilot has been at Frontier Airlines for 7 years, the Company will contribute a total of 11% of compensation. Other mainline airlines contribute 13% to 16% of compensation at the start of employment with no required burden on the pilot on each paycheck. The chart below shows that Frontier’s inferior retirement contributions create a multi-million dollar retirement account shortfall by the end of a pilot’s career.
Profit Sharing – Approximately two-thirds of US mainline carriers provide profit sharing payments to their pilots. NO pilot profit sharing exists at Frontier Airlines despite industry leading (or near leading) profitability. Pilots at other carriers earn up to $60,000 a year from company profit sharing plans.
Medical Premiums – Pilot medical premiums and other costs are higher than other pilot’s pay. Frontier pilots are charged additional premiums to include a spouse and more than one child on your insurance coverage. In addition to your premium, it costs an additional $250 per month to cover a working spouse, and an additional $78.38 — per month, per child — to cover more than one child. That means the potential monthly health insurance premium for a family of 4 could be $700 to $1100/per month (depending on selected plan).
Training Contract – Frontier Airlines is the only mainline carrier that requires new hires to sign a “training contract.” That legally binding document requires you to pay the Company back up to $23,000 for initial training if you leave Frontier Airlines within 2 years.