Applying to the major airlines: When and where to start…

Many pilots are unsure of when and where exactly to start, and we want to help.

We’ve created a quick checklist to help get you started:


  1. Determine your top 3 choices.

With our help in application editing and interview prep, most pilots don’t need to apply to more than three companies.  Applying to all airlines and taking the first job you are offered is a thing of the past and burns bridges unnecessarily.

There’s a lot to consider when determining what your top three airline choices should be:

  • Domicile: Most commercial pilots will place domicile as their top determining factor.  When you live in domicile or have an easy commute, you increase your quality of life and earning potential.
  • Type of flying you prefer: What does your ideal flying position look like when you go to work?  Would you like to fly cargo or passengers?  Has wide-body international flying been a dream since you were a kid?  Do you prefer more domestic trips?  Flying international vs vacationing international are two different kind of trips!  Don’t confuse the two as all major airlines have reciprocal non-revenue travel agreements.
  • Average trip length: Do you prefer to fly longer trips with longer blocks of time off or shorter trips, but home for a shorter time on a more regular basis?  This varies greatly by airline and domicile, but in general, airline’s average trip lengths from longest to shortest fall in the following order: UPS, FedEx, United, Delta or American, Southwest.


  1. Build your applications BEFORE you meet the minimums.

Military pilots should start building their applications one year from their availability date, including terminal leave (so probably 15 months from their actual separation date). Civilian pilots should start about three months before they meet the minimum application requirements.

*Helpful hint: if you have your ATP, you meet the minimums found here for AA, so if they are in your top three, apply today!


Check out the hiring minimums for the other airlines:




UPS  The First Officer position is not always published.  Check back weekly until the position is posted.



  1. Apply in the right place.

Click below for links to each of the respective airline’s online application.  Both American and Southwest use Pilot Credentials, however, rather than apply through the generic pilot credentials website for the other airlines, it is important to apply through the airline-specific sites below:

American’s Application

Delta Air Line’s Application

Southwest’s Application

FedEx’s New Application

United Airline’s Application

UPS’ Application   The First Officer position is not always published.  Check back weekly until the position is posted. Search for the “First Officer” position.


  1. Have your applications professionally edited.

You don’t have to be a perfect pilot to get hired, but your paperwork should be perfect!  There’s really no reason why your application isn’t correct, has spelling errors, miscalculated hours, gaps in employment, incorrect dates, or otherwise isn’t representing you in a professional manner.  All of our Editors have extensive experience in the aviation industry and professional writing/editing experience, and all of your documents will be reviewed by two people: a writing expert and a pilot expert. Once you sign up for edits, you will get an automated email with instructions on how to submit your documents.  Enroll in our airline pilot application, pilot resume, and airline pilot cover letter edit process today.


  1. Submit your application!

Once you’ve had your applications edited and have a strong resume (if required) that you are proud of, you should submit your applications the day you meet the airline’s minimum application requirements. While they aren’t currently using the original application submission date field, it is possible that airlines will start using application dates as part of their selection criteria in the near future!

We will say this again and again, you don’t have to be the perfect pilot to get hired. Airlines understand that you are human. They simply want to see how you’ve learned from your mistakes and grown over your career. However, your paperwork should be perfect. There is no excuse for unprofessional documents or omissions that can put you in damage-control-mode before you even start the interview process. We’re here to help you every step of the way. After you get your applications submitted, you can use our services for pilot technical prep, personality assessment prep, and pilot interview prep. We have a 100% success rate and money back guarantee on technical and personality assessment prep for all the major airlines, so you have nothing to lose.

Each airline has different experience they value, different qualities they look for, different goals they are reaching for, and very different hiring processes. We have experience working with all of them and will help you navigate those differences to put your best foot forward and help your career takeoff!