Spotlight On Mechanics' Wages Shows Steady Increases

A post-pandemic shortage of frontline workers, notably pilots and mechanics, has forced companies to shift business strategies. In many cases, wages are going up as a result.

Some research by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) underscores the gains that mechanics are making, at least in the big-airline world. At the beginning of 2023, 10 U.S. airlines had so-called "top-of-scale" hourly wages for mechanics of at least $50 per hour, with Southwest Airlines, whose mechanics are represented by AFMA, leading the way at nearly $59 per hour. 

Of course, the top possible wage is only one part of a mechanic's contract. Another key metric is how long it takes to get there. The range for nine those top 10 carriers was eight years of service or less, with Southwest and Delta Air Lines offering the speediest paths to the top, at 5 and 6.5 years, respectively.

Add it up, and mechanics at these carriers can reasonably expect yearly annual wages of $100,000-120,000 within five to eight years. And that's before adding in often-available overtime.

Data from ATEC's most recent Pipeline Report suggest the bottom end of the wage scale is also moving in the right direction. A survey of aviation maintenance technician schools (AMTS) holding an FAA certificate used to compile some report data found an average starting hourly rate for certificated AMTS alumni at $25.49 per hour (or $53,019 annually), an increase of 12 percent over last year and nearly 20 percent over the past 2 years. "This steep increase in entry-level pay is further evidence of the growing demand for technical personnel," the council noted in the report.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports median pay for all aircraft mechanics and technicians—both certificated and non-certificated—at $31.52 per hour, or $65,562 annually (per 2022 data rates).

As the figures suggest, mechanic pay ranges widely. But the bottom-line trends show it is also going up across the board. While it means higher costs for operators and repair stations, this is ultimately good news. Well-paying careers help attract candidates, and aviation needs a steady pipeline of new mechanics.