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Come on...you really think things have changed? Why the huge difference in Jet FO pay between 1st and 2nd year? Because you're PAYING FOR YOUR TRAINING, whether it's cash upfront or off the top of your paycheck before you ever see it.
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I'm sorry, I respectfully disagree. Though I do suffer from the low wage, I knew EXACTLY what I was getting into. I gave up a much higher paying charter job so that I could realize my dreams of the airlines. I may be alone in my thought process, but I think that the reason for the low wage the first year, followed by such a sizeable jump the second is timing. Notice that the FIRST (read probation) year is the low paying one.
For many, the first year at a regional airline is their first experience in a high stress, high performance, demanding crew and passenger environment. The airlines are an entirely different animal than instructing, banner towing, traffic watch, sightseeing, etc. The airline does indeed incur a substantial cost/investment to train each pilot. I am ok with this policy because I didn't pay for my training (unless you count the 17,000 to get my ratings) and as stated earlier, I knew the scenario. I think PFT is an ugly word and I don't like being tagged with that label. It is just this humble pilots opinion that the airline wants to see that you can succeed in the challenging environment before they pay a reasonable wage. I know that I have had several students that were superstars in the training world, disasters in the real world...
just my .02