Categories: Airline

Lifetime earnings: Career LLC in SG vs Transition to China or Middle East, who Earns More?


For those who read my earlier article about the Lifetime earnings compared between an RSAF Pilot and a career Low Cost Carrier (LLC) pilot, you will know that both RSAF pilots and Airline pilots earn a respectable amount of money throughout their career.

In cause you forgot about that article, here’s a summary.

RSAF Late Switch to LCC – $9,265,196.80

RSAF Early Switch to LCC – $7,616,000

Career LCC – $7,960,000

Today, we will be comparing a career LCC pilot versus a career LCC pilot that dares to make a transition to Juanyao (an airline in China) or a transition to Emirates in Dubai.

If money isn’t everything for you, and you just want to understand what the career looks like for an Airline Pilot, read this article.

Here’s a summary.

Earnings for SG LCC vs a transition to overseas

Career LLC – $7,960,000.00

Career LLC to Emirates as FO – $9,414,472.40

Career LLC to Emirates as CAPT – $9,797,265.28

Career LLC to Juanyao as FO – $11,390,000.00

Career LLC to Juanyao as CAPT – $12,815,500.00

Read below for details of the math.


To ensure we are both on the same page, here are my assumptions for calculations.

  • Everything earned is kept in cash. Money that is made is not invested and does not grow. And we all know the power of compound interest.
  • Typical Low-Cost Carrier Transition. For the sake of this comparison, we left out the RSAF – SIA career transition. We only looked at the typical Low-Cost Carrier Transition (such as Tiger Air and Jetstar Asia). RSAF pilots are assumed to pay for their own type rating and FAA Licence. Career LCC pilots are assumed to pay for their own CAAS CPL and type rating.
  • No salary increment and decrement in the airlines. While airline salaries are not expected to stay stagnant for the coming years, I assumed a 0% increment for airline salaries. On the flip side, I personally deem airline salary in China to be unsustainable forever, and I do not think the current salary package will stay forever. Nevertheless, I’ve assumed it will never drop below the current salary offering.
  • USD to SGD rates at 1.5

Career LCC

This individual paid for his own CAAS CPL, starting life in debt at $200,000. We assumed no opportunity cost or loan interest in this article.

At 24, finds a job in an airline and starts as Junior First Officer. During the first 6 months in the Airlines at age 24, this individual earns basic Junior FO salary for 6 months, becomes operational and earns the full salary with productivity for the next 6 months. As a JFO, this pilot should earn $96,000 a year.

After working for 1-2 years, this individual gets his 1,500 hours and gets promoted to Senior First Officer. At the rank of SFO, this pilot should earn a comfortable $130,000 a year.

At a young age of 30, gets promoted to Aircraft captain and continues working till 65 in this airline. As a Captain in an LCC, he should easily earn $210,000 a year.

At the age of 65, retires after earning $7,960,000. Really enjoyed his entire life, begins to wonder why some people struggle through life.

Career LLC to Emirates as FO

Emirates pilot salary


Like the career LCC pilot, this individual found the opportunity to cross over to Emirates in Dubai at the age of 30. He couldn’t get a job with Emirates earlier on in his career because Emirates generally hire pilots with more hours.

After moving to Dubai, for the next one year, the newly hired Emirates pilot suffers a pay cut to $100,000 because of the transition and lower pay due to training.

His life is back on track at the age of 31, making a nice SGD$16753.01 a month or SGD$201,036.12 a year.


Because the airline is much bigger and generally considered a legacy airline, the Emirates FO only gets his captain 6 years later, getting a bump in salary at the age of 38 to SGD$265,801.92 a year.

He continues living in the desert till he is 65, earning a cool $9,414,72.4 in lifetime earnings.

Career LLC to Emirates as CAPT

Differing from the Career LCC pilot who crossed over to Emirates as an FO, this individual grinded his way in an LCC in Singapore to become a Captain at the age of 30. He earns $210,000 for the year at the age of 30.

At the age of 31, he receives an offer from Emirates as a direct entry Captain and decides to make the switch. At 31, the new Emirates Captain earns just $150,000 because of training and the transition.

However, once he completes the transition at the age of 32, he starts to earn the full promised salary of $265,801.92. As Dubai is the land of Supercars, he decides he should spend some money to enjoy. Buys a Supercar to drive to the airport. annually and continues earning that for the rest of his life, fully adapted to riding the camels.

He continues to earn that annual salary for the rest of his life, fully adapted to riding a camel and a supercar.

He earns a lifetime salary of $9,797,265.28, thinking of retirement in Thailand.

Career LLC to Juanyao as FO

Similar to the Career LCC to Emirates as FO, this individual chances upon an airline in China called Juanyao. He wonders WTF (who the F) is Juanyao, but it really doesn’t matter because Juanyao lured him with a cool $225,000 annual salary as an FO.

So he crosses over at the age of 30, stays as an FO till 39, simply because Juanyao doesn’t need to upgrade their FOs, simply because they can buy any Captains in the world.

Finally gets his chance at 40 to become a Captain in Juanyao, and starts earning a cool $441,750.00 a year for the rest of his cool life. Oh, realises he has to retire at 60 because, in China, you can only be an airline pilot till 60.

But who cares, this Chinese Captain retires with $11,390,000 in lifetime earning, hopefully, survives the impending lung cancer. He begins to wonder, where did Juanyao get all that money from?

Career LLC to Juanyao as CAPT

This individual heard of Juanyao from that dude that went as an FO and decided it will be his aim to cross over to Juanyao as a Captain. So he grinds his way to Captain in Singapore at the age of 30 and finally fulfilling his dream at 32. The age of 33 is kinda difficult as he only takes in a measly $300,000 for that year since he is under training.

But damn, at the age of 34, he draws a cool $441,750.00 as a fully online Captain in Juanyao. He wants to buy a supercar with his new wealth but realises that he has to wait for a permit. After waiting for a while to buy his supercar, he realises that he might as well walk since the average speed in Shanghai is 6km/h.

Some months he makes USD$50,000, some months he makes USD$30,000, some months a lot less since a lot of the salary is performance based. But hey, he averages $441,750 a year for the rest of his life.

As a pilot, some months he makes USD$50,000, some months he makes USD$30,000, some months a lot less since a lot of the salary is performance based. But hey, he averages $441,750 a year for the rest of his life.

He retires at 60, sitting on a bag of cash after a lifetime earning of $12,815,500.

Take Aways

A transition away from Singapore, either to China or Dubai, will definitely allow a pilot in Singapore to outperform his peers in Singapore.

A transition to China will allow you to earn a lifetime earning of $11-12 million, while a transition to Dubai will allow you to earn a lifetime earning of $9 million.

Based on the assumptions and my calculations, transiting to Emirates as an FO and as a Captain doesn’t make much difference, since the salary package doesn’t differ much between an FO and a Captain over there.

So, it really depends on what you want in life. Do you want to work in China, Dubai or Singapore?

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Captain Ong

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Captain Ong
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