Income Protection For Pilots

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As a pilot there are a great many things that could prevent you undertaking your normal flight duties given the need for you to be in excellent health. Far more so than would stop your typical office worker doing their job.

Given this, many pilots take out comprehensive Income Protection Insurance to protect their wages if they end up too ill or injured to work.

We work with a lot of pilots from a whole range of airlines and many have come to the conclusion that Income Protection could be a more comprehensive option than the Loss of Licence Insurance they tend to be more familiar with.

We work with pilots from a whole range of airlines. Many have come to the conclusion that Income Protection could be a more comprehensive option than the Loss of Licence Insurance.

  • Pilots Income Protection pays out a regular, tax-free monthly income if you suffer an accident or sickness that stops you from working.
  • Pays out up to 70% of your gross salary if you can’t work for any medical reason.
  • It allows you to keep up with all your essential outgoings, including your rent / mortgage, bills, utilities and groceries.
  • The best Income Protection will cover you long-term, paying out right up until your chosen retirement date if you can never work as a pilot again.
  • You can choose to add on Unemployment Insurance, which covers forced redundancy by paying out a benefit for between 1 and 2 years.

As a traditional long term protection policy which is fully medically underwritten it is there to protect you when you need it most. Leading insurers Zurich and Vitality paid out over 96% of valid Income Protection claims in 2019.

According to consumer group Which?, Income Protection is the one policy every working adult should consider.

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What Does Pilots Income Protection Cover?

Pilots Income Protection protects against any accident and sickness that prevents you from working as a pilot. This could be anything from the extremely serious, such as cardiac issues, to more minor problems such as back pain.

As mentioned, not every medical condition would necessarily disqualify you from flying and require you to forfeit your licence.

Back pain, for example, would not typically be serious enough to warrant your licence being suspended or revoked and so would not likely result in a successful Loss of Licence claim.

However, as long as it medically prevents you from doing your job, you’ll be able to make a claim on an Income Protection policy regardless of the status of your licence.

Given this, Income Protection is typically seen as more comprehensive than Loss of Licence protection.

Are There Any Exclusions?

As with most insurance, Income Protection has a few standard exclusions that apply to everyone. For example, most policies don’t cover an accident or sickness sustained:

  • In pursuit of criminal activity
  • From illegal / illicit drug use, substance abuse or alcohol misuse
  • During foreign travel to areas of active internal conflict, high terrorism risk, political instability or countries the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against visiting.

However, these aside, there are actually few standard exclusions. Instead, insurance companies base your coverage on your pre-existing medical history.

Does It Protect Against Pre-Existing Conditions?

All insurance companies ask a series of questions about your health when you apply for Income Protection. They particularly want to know about any medical conditions you’ve had in the last 5 years. If you disclose health concerns, the insurer might:

  • Cover your illness on standard terms (so you won’t face any difference in the cost of cover or policy terms than a healthy person)
  • Cover the condition for an additional premium
  • Exclude the condition but offer a date at which it will consider reviewing the exclusion
  • Exclude your illness entirely (perhaps with a premium discount to compensate).

However, given the strict health requirements in place for a pilot to keep their licence, most of our pilot clients have few (if any) illnesses to declare.

Where we specialise in Income Protection we have direct access to the underwriters at the top UK insurers. This puts us in a great position to negotiate the most favourable terms for your specific circumstances including when there are complications with existing medical conditions.

If you need help don’t hesitate to pop us a call on 02084327333 or email

Difference Between Loss of Licence Cover and Income Protection

Many Pilots end up weighing up whether to take out loss of licence or income protection insurance. To help we have put together a table detailing the core differences between the two policies.

Loss of Licence Cover

Income Protection

Payout Format

Pays out a lump sum or a monthly income for a set period until a ‘pot’ of funds runs out. It won’t last long term if you were off work indefinitely.

Pays out a regular tax-free monthly income. Long-term cover pays out every month until your policy cease age, typically your airline’s retirement age.

When Can You Claim?

Pays out if your licence is suspended or revoked due to illness or injury.

Pays out for any accident or sickness that medically stops you working.

Requirements for a Claim

Your licence must be suspended / revoked to claim. A more minor illness / injury might not lead to this but could still stop you working.

No requirement for your licence to be suspended / revoked to claim. The only criteria is that you are medically unable to work.

Do Pilots Need Income Protection Insurance?

As mentioned, pilots need to be incredibly fit and well to do their job. It’s likely you’ll have regular physicals to ensure this is the case. You’re probably therefore aware of all the illnesses or injuries that could stop you working.

If you lost your income after an accident or sickness, how would you cope financially?

What’s the Risk of Accident or Sickness?

The risk of illness or injury is higher than many people think. For example, among the general population:

However, the risk for pilots, given the stringent health requirements, is most likely higher still.

Could I Rely on Savings?

You might be the exception, but many people simply don’t have enough tucked away if they ever had to take more than a few weeks off sick. For example:

What About State Benefits?

One of the main government benefits if you can’t work due to illness or injury is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This starts at £74.35 per week for the over-25s. For many people, this wouldn’t make much of a dent in their pressing financial needs if they couldn’t do their job.

While other state benefits are available, your eligibility for them depends on the severity of your disability and other circumstances. Even if you are entitled to them, they rarely replace all your lost income.

Isn’t My Airline’s Sick Pay Enough?

Check with your airline to see how much sick pay is in your contract. It might not be as long as you think.

While many airlines offer a set number of weeks or months at full pay, this may drop back to the bare legal minimum (Statutory Sick Pay at just £95.85 per week) after a while.

Also, if you lose your licence due to a new health condition and can never fly again, your airline may terminate your contract and not pay out sick pay at all.

All together, these were the worries that brought award-winning financial blogger and author Mrs Mummpenny to Drewberry to sort out her Income Protection. Check out the story of how she covered her income for herself and her boys below.

How Does Income Protection for Pilots Work?

In addition to your personal circumstances there are a number of factors you need to think about when setting your cover. Some will have a significant impact on how much your income protection will cost.

How Much Cover Do I Need?

One of the first decisions you need to make is just how much income you need to cover.

Many individuals start with wanting to cover the maximum however it makes far more sense to consider your core outgoings and align accordingly.

Some insurers allow you to cover up to 70% of your gross earnings however the more cover you require the more expensive your premiums will be.

What Is The Deferred Period? How Long Should It Be?

The deferred period is the length of time you need to be off work before the policy starts paying out. Longer deferral periods reduce premiums notably compared with shorter ones. The longer you can survive on savings or company paid sick pay the lower your premiums will be.

Note that for pilots many Income Protection providers impose minimum deferral periods.

How Long Do I Need Cover For?

You need to decide on the length of cover which is the age your protection will end. Most people align it to the age where they anticipate retiring, which is typically 65 for commercial pilots.

However, not every insurer will offer cover right the way up until the age of 65, so it pays to know which insurer will work out best for you.

The longer you are covered for the higher the chance of incapacity and so the higher your premiums will be.

Short Or Long Benefit Period?

The benefit period is the length of time a claim will be paid for should you be unable to work.

Short-term plans pay out for a maximum of 1, 2 or 5 years per condition per claim, whereas long-term policies can continue paying out either until you are well enough to return to work or you reach your policy cease age.

Given the average length of a claim is between 6 and 7 years long if your budget suffices it is best to opt for full term cover.

Guaranteed, Age Banded or Reviewable Premiums?

There are three options to choose from when it comes to type of premiums.

  • Reviewable premiums
    Are ‘reviewable’ as the insurer sees fit and so can rise in a variety of circumstances, such as if if the insurer has seen an increase in claims or based on economic factors.

Reviewable premiums usually start out cheaper but are reviewed upwards and as such tend to work out more expensive across the life of the policy.

  • Age-banded premiums
    Also work out cheaper to begin with but then steadily rise each year. Unlike reviewable premiums, however, age-banded premiums can only rise by a preset amount laid out in your policy documents.

These increases are solely linked to your age and the increasing risk of you claiming as you get older.

  • Guaranteed premiums
    Work out more expensive initially, but cannot be adjusted over the life of the policy unless you yourself make any changes to the plan.

Although policies with guaranteed premiums are the best option many such providers do not offer cover to to Pilots. Those that do cover Pilots and offer cost-effective premiums tend to have age-banded pricing.

Should I Choose Indexation?

Index-linking your Income Protection is a way to ensure that a fixed benefit isn’t eroded over time by inflation.

Think of the cost of a pint of milk today compared to 10 or 20 years ago – it’s gone up considerably! Inflation acts on the cost of all goods and services over time, making them more expensive and therefore harder to afford if your Income Protection benefit remains static.

Indexing your benefit means that it will move in lockstep with inflation to ensure that it will never be eroded in real terms.

Samantha Haffenden-Angear, Independent Protection Expert at Drewberry

It is important to note very few insurers offer Pilots Income Protection with an own occupation incapacity definition.

Most of those who do offer this definition of incapacity require you to set up cover through a specialist such as ourselves.

If you need any help please don’t hesitate to pop us a call on 02084327333 or email

Samantha Haffenden-Angear
Independent Protection Expert at Drewberry

Your Definition of Incapacity

Getting the right definition of incapacity is important because it’s how the insurer will determine if you’re fit for work and therefore able to make a claim.

There are three main definitions of incapacity to consider with Income Protection:

  • Own Occupation Cover means that you will be entitled to your benefits as long as your injury or illness prevents you from working in your specific job role as a pilot.
  • Suited Occupation definition of incapacity mean that in order to claim benefits, you have to be unable to undertake your current job role or any other job where you may have experience or education to perform.

This could mean a pilot who is deemed unfit to work as a pilot may not be able to claim because they would be suited to doing another occupation, such as teaching in a flight simulator for example.

  • Any Occupation / Work Tasks is a definition of incapacity that means you can only claim if you’re so totally unfit to work that you can’t work in any occupation / perform a set number of tasks required at most basic jobs.

It’s the most difficult to claim on and in general we’d recommend it’s best avoided.

How Much Does Pilots Income Protection Cost In 2023?

Calculating the cost of Sickness Insurance for pilots depends on a variety of factors, most of which are policy factors discussed above.

However, there are also some personal factors that also impact the cost of Income Protection, such as:

  • Your age
    The older you are at the start of the policy, the higher the cost of Income Protection
  • Any health conditions you may have
    An insurer may look to increase the premiums if you have a health condition or simply exclude that condition outright, although for most pilots this won’t apply because of the requirement to be in excellent health
  • Your smoker status
    Smokers are more likely to get ill, and to become seriously ill, due to the detrimental health impacts of smoking.

As you can see there are many influences on the price of Income Protection, but we’ve put together a table with an average figure for three pilots of various different ages.

Example Monthly Income Protection Premiums

To calculate the cost of income protection for a pilot, we’ve assumed:

  • The individual is a healthy pilot
  • They want a benefit of £2,000 a month
  • They’re looking for a 13 week deferral period
  • Their cease age will be age 65
  • They’re looking for long-term cover
  • They’ve opted for age-banded premiums.

If you would like to find out how much income protection might cost for your specific circumstances you can compare all the leading UK insurers with our quote tool →


Monthly Premium

25 Years Old


35 Years Old


45 Years Old


Income protection quotes accurate as of March 2022

How Do I Make A Claim?

If you feel that you’re going to be out of work for longer than your deferred period, the first thing to do is make sure the insurer knows this.

While you won’t be able to claim your benefit until the end of your deferred period, starting the claims process as soon as you take leave from work allows your insurer can keep track of how long it has been since you stopped working and when to start paying a claim.

Once you’ve been out of work for longer than your deferred period, you’ll begin to receive a tax-free monthly income from the policy until either:

  • You’re well enough to return to work
  • You reach the end of your claims period (1, 2 or 5 years for short-term policies)
  • Or the policy ends (typically at retirement, for long-term cover).

Neil’s Cancer Claim With British Friendly

Neil is a client of Drewberry and took out an Accident and Sickness Insurance policy with British Friendly. He was a member for 4 years before he needed to claim.

He became unwell and had pains in his stomach. After consulting his GP and having some further tests Neil was diagnosed with stage 2 Bowel Cancer and needed to make a claim.

🤕 Read More About Neil’s Claim

Common Pilot Income Protection Questions

  • Is Income Protection The Same As Loss Of Licence Insurance?

    No, Income Protection and Loss of Licence Insurance are different policies.

    Loss of Licence Insurance pays out if your licence is suspended or revoked on medical grounds. It typically pays out one lump sum, but may pay out an income for a brief period until a ‘pot’ of funds equal to the lump sum you’d have received is exhausted.

    This means your illness has to be serious enough to result in the revocation or suspension of your pilots licence.

    Income Protection on the other hand pays a monthly income should you suffer any illness or injury which prevents you from working in your current occupation as a Pilot. Should a claim arise the policy will continue to pay you a monthly benefit either until you are fit enough to return to work or you reach your expected retirement age.

  • Do I Need A Medical For Pilots Income Protection?

    Whether or not you need a medical depends on a variety of personal and policy factors.

    If you’re older, seeking a higher benefit from the policy or have been unwell in the past, you may trigger the criteria for a medical screening automatically.

    A medical screening for Income Protection comes in a variety of formats. It could be as simple as a telephone interview with a nurse, who’ll discuss factors such as your height, weight, blood pressure and any other health issues.

    A step up from this could be a visit from a nurse to your home or place of work, which could involve blood and urine samples taken for analysis as well as a medical practitioner physically measuring your height, weight and blood pressure.

    A full medical screening would involve a visit to a doctor to have a variety of tests to ensure you’re in top health. Fortunately, we generally find that most pilots, because of the need to be healthy for their job, pass their medicals easily.

    All medicals arranged are at the insurer’s expense and can be taken care of at a time and date to suit your needs.

  • I Fly Helicopters — Can I Still Get Sickness Insurance?

    Although the risk maybe considered higher, helicopter pilots are still able to take out Income Protection so long as they are working more than 16 hours per week and are paying UK taxes.

Compare Best UK Income Protection Insurance For Pilots In 2023

There are only four insurers in the marketplace who offer pilots Income Protection with an own occupation incapacity definition. This is the best definition of incapacity on the marketplace and the one we feel it’s particularly important pilots choose.

In addition to the providers below which link through to our expert review of their product we have also written a comprehensive guide covering the best income protection policies in the UK.

Free Additional Benefits & Support Services

With insurers ever improving their policies many now come with a number of really valuable every day benefits which can include:

  • 24 / 7 Virtual GP and prescription service
  • Nurse led medical helplines and mental health support
  • A fixed number of physiotherapy sessions per year (either online or in person)
  • Second medical opinion service, providing access to world-leading medical experts to offer a second opinion on a diagnosis or course of treatment.
  • Discounts on gym memberships / fitness trackers and high street goods.
  • Hospitalisation benefit, paying out a cash benefit each day you spend as an inpatient in hospital

Many such services are available to not only you as the policyholder but also your immediate family, such as your spouse / civil partner or dependent children.

Compare Pilots Income Protection Quotes & Get Expert Advice

Pilots may find it especially tricky to get Income Protection, especially on an own occupation basis. To ensure that you’re getting the right cover for your needs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Why Speak to Us?

We started Drewberry™ because we were tired of being treated like a number.

We all deserve a first class service when it comes to issues as important as protecting our health and our finances. Below are just a few reasons why it makes sense to talk to us.

If you need any help please don’t hesitate to pop us a call on 02084327333 or email

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