Update: @DJClayworth pointed out that the primary question is whether any pilots make between $19k - $25k per year. I more took the question to be whether pilots, in general, are being paid these amounts. I dug a bit more and tracked down a survey by FltOps, an aviation professional assistance company, whose reports on lowest and highest reported salaries for various pilots is found HERE:
US Airways is definitely in this range with their lowest reported figure of $21,600. United airlines is also close at $27,392, with American Airlines coming in at 3rd with $30,984.
Based on this survey, YES, some pilots are being paid in the range that Moore reports.
Here is data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for "Aircraft pilots and flight engineers" (SOURCE):
Both Sexes Men Women
Number Median Number Median Number Median
of weekly of weekly of weekly
workers earnings workers earnings workers earnings
82 1,365 79 1,360 3 (1)
Translating into yearly rates, we have:
- Both sexes: $1,365 * 52 = $70,980
- Men: $1,360 * 52 = $70,720
We would need more statistics to figure out the distribution of pilot earnings, but the data above supports that pilots tend to earn quite a bit more than the values reported by Moore.
I also just found about the coolest site ever while digging around for this. Laborista (LINK) allows you to select any country and view available data for it's wage rates by occupation! They list their sources and methodology for each country HERE.
Here was my method:
- I downloaded their data for all countries (click "O1: Download all countries" HERE)
- I grabbed all data for job code 118, Air Transport Pilot and only the data for "Average earnings" and "Wages or salary rates"
- I used the currency converter HERE to find values for all currencies in US Dollars
- I then calculated wages based on payment time interval (per month/week/etc.) and currency conversion rate to come up with a yearly salary in USD
- Once I had the values, I doubled checked for currency issues on any really, really oddball values (there were many!). In many cases, they had given a pre-euro value and some euro values, and this skyrocketed the apparent wage. In those cases, I deleted the euro values (there was often only 1) and went with the pre-euro conversion rates for the obsolete currency.
- I pruned unnecessary country data (sometimes there were six various listings for a country), favoring the lower values that were present to make this on the safe side
- Finally, I sorted the data and made the plot below
- The final spreadsheet I ended up with is available for inspection HERE
So, here are the pilot wages for numerous countries (click to enlarge):
Based on the data... YES, there are pilots' in the US and world wide being paid values that track with what Moore reported; if the conversions and data collection techniques are accurate for the non-US countries, many make much less, in fact. (Though, we have no idea what the standard of living, economies, etc. are like in those countries, either.)
I don't think the question is particularly well phrased. Data supports some pilots making lower-than-expected amounts. We don't necessarily know their circumstances, size of the operations they work for, etc. Perhaps were Moore to interview only the top 10% of airline pilots we would be answering a question on this site about whether they really make $200,000 per year, as it seems so high.
Statistical analyses should sample randomly to create an accurate distribution; Moore probably does not have this aim, despite whatever good objectives he was trying to fulfill with his documentary. Just some things to consider about the type of source.