CEO 2010 pay at major and regional airlines — do they deserve it? Take our poll


Here is a list of the 2010 compensation of airline CEOs. It has never been such a good time to be an airline CEO. Never have companies lost so much money over time while giving their top executives so much in compensation.

Think back to the founders of many of these airlines and the executives that built the airline systems we know today. None of them raked in the millions in compensation that today’s executives are making. The largesse does not only go to the CEOs, but it seeps down to the top 50 or so executives at virtually all airlines.

At many airlines the compensation of the top 50 executives appears to gobble up most of the hard-won profits. At the same time that some of these same airlines are dishing out millions to executives, they are dragging their feet on labor negotiations and fighting passenger protections.

Here is the CEO list in descending order of compensation.

Here is the Airline Quality Rating from 2011.

Something is wrong in this picture from the consumer and workers’ points of view. When we look at the list from an airline quality rating point of view (except for the compensation to the Hawaiian Airlines CEO) the top-paid CEOs are all in the bottom half of the quality ranking and the lowest-paid CEOs rise to the top. Clearly, delivery of quality to passengers makes no difference in compensation.

Note: Canadian Airlines I refer to in the charts is Air Canada.

  • Anonymous

    Look – anyone and everyone of use deserves every penny they can get – especially when contracted for it.  Now it goes without saying that if you spread the wealth among all employees, you will end up with a happier staff and an even more profitable company….but really – if it’s in the contract….

  • Todd

    would those be like the same contracts they try to get rid of on a daily basis for their employees by union busting?  Oh wait, its not them so its ok to break those contracts.

  • Anonymous

    Do read the second sentence. I’m actually a big fan of the Ben & Jerry’s model where no one is allowed to make more than 5 times what the lowest paid employee earns (or at least it used to be that way).

  • frank

    Interesting, I just had a former CEO onboard in, yes, you guessed it, FIRST CLASS.  Apparently, with his GOLDEN PARACHUTE, he was given “high status” boarding so he could most likely get a first class seat when flying.  Me?  I lost my pension. 

  • bodega

    I always cringe when someone writes something like this about someone else’s pay.  I personally feel many are over compensated in many fields of enterprise including the travel writing field.

  • Charlie Leocha

    Don’t cringe. How many people do you know who make more than a million dollars a year doing their overpaid jobs? Executives at this level are paying themselves (OK their boards of directors approve the pay) obscene amounts of money. All the while they get rewarded for squeezing out customer service and services as well as more work from employees. They get rewarded for giving less to their customers and employees. And rewarded well, it appears.

  • Matthew in NYC

    I think that many airlines make a loss because the senior management and the principle shareholder find a loss a useful too when negotiating with labor and the government. The reality is that they make a loss because of the interest that they pay their bondholders, if you look carefully you’ll find that the bondholders are pretty much the same people and organizations as the shareholders, so they get their money one way or another. Businesses that really lose money disappear. 

  • Doug

    Interesting article, but a clarification needed.   There is no Canadian Airline…  there hasn’t been for at least 10 years.   Calin Rovinescu is CEO of Air Canada.

    As a general comment, though, I find it immoral that the leaders of a business make this much money when the business doesn’t do well and while the employees have their salaries / benefits / jobs axed.  Not to single out the airlines, that mentality is rampant in almost all sectors of the economy.   It’s things like this that make socialism look good….

  • Charles Leocha

    Thanks for catching that. I added a note just above the poll noting that the Canadian Airlines was in fact, Air Canada.

  • Amish_wiseguy

    Thanks. I am being redundant. I got a good laugh, “Canadian Airlines” perhaps they should have included “Trans Canada” as well?

  • frank

    OK, you’ve showed the pay, now dig deeper, and show the BENEFITS, PENSIONS, STOCK OPTIONS, etc..etc. 

  • Charlie Leocha

    These figures include total compensation such as stock options and bonuses, but not benefits like flight perks, limos, pensions etc.

  • Marlin

    If the board of directors and the major shareholders are fine with what a CEO makes, what does it matter? If they don’t like their performance they get rid of them, a CEO can’t just do whatever he/she wants. One problem in this country today is everyone worrying about what everybody else makes. I have seen to many cases of a better skilled, more dedicated employee making less then another because of seniority etc.

  • frank

    What does it matter???  Seriously?  Just ask the employees of American Airlines, or several or most airlines for that matter.  Management continues to REWARD themselves with bonuses ON THE BACKS of their employees!  So, they should make OBSCENE amounts of money, get life time benefits while WORKER BEES havent had raises in a decade?????  Some airline employees are close to food stamps!  Some PILOTS cant afford hotels in their domiciles and sleep on couches in the employee airport lounges!
    They cant do what they want?  There’s been a long line of airline CEO’s who have riden the gravey train into retirement. 

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  • Adam Smith lives

    Capitalism used to be for the capitalists. Now it pays the managers. Something is wrong when the workers (Upper management) get rewarded better than the stockholders.

  • Xxz

    Ummm ther is no “Canadian Airlines” and has not been for several years. Get your facts straight. Perhaps you meant Air Canada.

  • tim

    no 1 cares about Canada.

  • 3bettins

    The CEO of JAL makes $90,000 a year- he was interviewed recently as he ate lunch in the employee cafeteria with the common folk. He couldn’t understand how his colleagues could earn that much money!

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  • Anonymous

    I worked many years for Fortune 500 sales organization and saw CEO’s come and go because the company lost money. Only in the airlines they can loose money and get bonuses. No sales organization will tolerate that. How the Board of Directors approves this pay is beyond me.

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  • Air

    When airlines claim they are losing money, is it really fair to cut customer’s services and/or charge higher fees and still pay their CEO’s millions?

  • Keolalani NA

     These salaries are “obscene” and a major signal of disrespect to the public.  In fact, I’ve a mind in these days of “Occupy Wallstreet” to assert that no corporate executive should earn more than the President of the United States whose job surely is as demanding as any of theirs.  Indeed, this translates into ($400K w/$160K covering expenses for travel & entertainment.  If they can’t live amply on that amount, there is something seriously with them that is spelled “Greed” (capital “G” intended).

    In the fall of 2007 before the November election, then Senator Obama met with members of Wall Street where he commented, “A free economy never met taking as much as one could get!”  Apparently, these dudes (notice they are all men) haven’t “grokked” it!

    Shame on all of you! :o(

  • Anonymous

    Let’s tax the airline CEO and use the money to upgrade our navigational system and give food to everyone in ecomony class.