Airline Travel Is Brutal Now. Here’s How Much Airline CEOs Make Bringing It To You

Airlines lost billions of dollars during the pandemic. But their leaders shed costs, in many cases by downsizing staff and brought in government subsidies (designed to keep them from shedding staff). It was a test of leadership, and CEOs were rewarded handsomely for the task.

It’s a wet hot American summer of flying through delays, cancellations, and long lines at airports. It may be a comfort to know that airline CEOs were well paid bringing it to us. Total airline CEO compensation for 2021 is now available based on SEC filings for public companies.

Airline CEO Total Comp
Delta Ed Bastian $12.4 million
United Scott Kirby $9.8 million
American Doug Parker $7.2 million
Southwest Gary Kelly $5.8 million
Spirit Ted Christie $3.9 milion
Frontier Barry Biffle $3.6 million
JetBlue Robin Hayes $3.4 million
Alaska Ben Minicucci $3.2 million
Hawaiian Peter Ingram $3.1 million

The CARES Act, which provided $25 billion in direct payments to airlines, $25 billion in subsidized loans, and billions more for airline partners as well as tax relief for airlines included restrictions on executive compensation. (Airlines also received two more rounds of direct payments after this.) In some cases this meant airline CEOs were paid 30% less than they’d have otherwise received. These restrictions lift in April 2023.

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