Passenger Airline Employment

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December 2013 Passenger Airline Employment Up 0.3 Percent from December 2012

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Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-Time Equivalent Employees,
Month of December, 1990-2013

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Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-Time Equivalent Employees,  Month of December, 1990-2013

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 380,809 workers in December 2013, 0.3 percent more than in December 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today. December was the first month that full-time equivalent (FTE) employment for U.S. scheduled passenger carriers was higher than the same month of the previous year after 15 consecutive months of declines (Tables 1, 2, 3).

BTS reported that the December 2013 FTE total for scheduled passenger carriers was 1,233 more than in December 2012 (Table 3). Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines.  can be found on the BTS web site.

The five network airlines that collectively employ two-thirds of the scheduled passenger airline FTEs reported 0.4 percent more FTEs in December 2013 than in December 2012, the first month with more FTEs than the same month of the previous year for the group after 16 months of declines (Table 7). United Airlines and American Airlines reduced FTEs from December 2012 while US Airways, Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines increased FTEs (Table 9). Network airlines operate a significant portion of flights using at least one hub where connections are made for flights to down-line destinations or spoke cities.

Of the six low-cost carriers, four - Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, Virgin America and JetBlue Airways - reported an increase in FTEs from December 2012 while two - Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines - reported a decline (Table 12). Low-cost airlines operate under a low-cost business model, with infrastructure and aircraft operating costs below the overall industry average.

Among the 13 regional carriers, three carriers reported reduced employment levels in December compared to the previous year: Endeavor Airlines, Chautauqua Airlines and Air Wisconsin (Table 15). Regional carriers typically provide service from small cities, using primarily regional jets to support the network carriers’ hub and spoke systems.

Carrier Groups: The five network airlines employed 67.0 percent of the total number of FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in December, the six low-cost carriers employed 18.2 percent and the 13 regional carriers employed 13.2 percent (Table 4). The three airlines with the most FTEs in December – United, Delta and American – employed 56.2 percent of the month’s total passenger airline FTEs (Table 6). These three airlines carried 39.6 percent of total passengers traveling on U.S. airlines in November, the most recent month available. See Air Traffic press releases.

Top employers by group: United employed the most FTEs (81,368) in December among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (44,831) among low-cost airlines, and American Eagle Airlines employed the most FTEs (11,030) among regional airlines. Four of the top five employers in the industry are network airlines (Table 6).

Airline Mergers: Airlines that announce mergers begin joint reporting following U.S. Department of Transportation approval and issuance of a single economic certificate.  Southwest and AirTran began joint reporting of their financial data in April 2012 under a waiver granted by the Department, while reporting the rest of their data as separate carriers. American and US Airways, following their December 2013 merger announcement, will report separately until the Department approves single carrier reporting and a single economic certificate is issued.

Network Airlines
Recent Changes: The network airlines employed 1,090 more FTEs in December 2013 than in December 2012, a 0.4 percent increase. Two of the five network carriers, United and American, reported an FTE decrease from December 2012 to December 2013 (Tables 8, 9).

Longer-term Changes: The network airlines employed 2,993 fewer FTEs in December 2013 than in December 2009, a 1.2 percent decrease. American reported an 10.8 percent decrease in FTE employment from 2009 to 2013 while US Airways reported an increase of 5.1 percent. December 2009 and December 2013 numbers for United and Delta are not directly comparable because of the intervening mergers. United reported 5.5 percent more FTEs in December 2013 than United and Continental reported separately in December 2009. Delta reported 2.5 percent fewer FTEs in December 2013 than Delta and Northwest reported separately in December 2009 (Tables 8, 9).

Low-Cost Airlines
Recent Changes: The six low-cost airlines reported 0.6 percent fewer FTEs as a group from December 2012 to December 2013. Frontier and Southwest reported year-to-year decreases while the remaining four airlines reported increases (Table 12).

Longer-term Changes: The low-cost carriers employed 6,750 more FTEs in December 2013 than in December 2009, a 10.8 percent increase. Spirit reported the largest percentage increase, 84.5 percent, while Frontier reported an 18.4 percent decline. December 2013 numbers for Southwest are not directly comparable to 2009 because of the intervening merger. Southwest reported 5.3 percent more FTEs in December 2013 than Southwest and AirTran reported separately in December 2009 (Table 12). 

Regional Airlines
Recent Changes: Regional airlines reported a 0.5 percent decrease in FTE employment in December 2013 compared to December 2012; one regional airline discontinued service since a year ago. Republic Airlines and Mesa Airlines reported the largest percentage increases in FTEs from December 2012 to December 2013. Endeavor and Chautauqua reported the largest percentage decreases (Table 15).

Longer-term Changes: The 13 regional carriers operating in December employed 4.8 percent fewer FTEs in 2013 than the 18 carriers operating in December 2009.  Mesa reported the largest percentage decline followed by Horizon. GoJet reported the biggest four-year percentage gain. The ExpressJet/Atlantic Southeast combination reported 1.8 percent more FTE’s in December 2013 than the two airlines reported separately in December 2009. The Endeavor/Mesaba combination reported 29.5 percent fewer FTE’s in December 2013 than the two airlines reported separately in December 2009 (Table 15).

Endeavor operated as Pinnacle prior to August 2013.

Reporting Notes

Airlines that operate at least one aircraft that has more than 60 seats or the capacity to carry a payload of passengers, cargo and fuel weighing more than 18,000 pounds must report monthly employment statistics.

The “Other Carrier” category generally reflects those airlines that operate within specific niche markets such as Hawaiian Airlines and Island Air Hawaii serving the Hawaiian Islands. 

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial air carriers as of Feb. 7.  Additional and previous press releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of January passenger airline employment data for March 21.

Table 1: Change from Previous Year in Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Airline Group

Most recent 13 months - percent change compared to same month the previous year

MonthNetwork AirlinesLow-Cost AirlinesRegional AirlinesAll Passenger Airlines**
Dec 2011-Dec 2012-3.31.3-5.4-2.6
Jan 2012-Jan 2013-3.11.1-4.1-2.2
Feb 2012-Feb 2013-3.00.2-5.0-2.4
Mar 2012-Mar 2013-3.3-0.1-4.6-2.6
Apr 2012-Apr 2013-3.0-0.3-3.8-2.4
May 2012-May 2013-3.0-0.3-4.4-2.4
Jun 2012-Jun 2013-2.8-0.6-4.4-2.4
Jul 2012-Jul 2013-2.8-0.4-6.3-2.6
Aug 2012-Aug 2013-2.50.0-5.1-2.2
Sep 2012-Sep 2013-2.1-0.2-3.0-1.6
Oct 2012-Oct 2013-1.4-0.1-0.8-0.8
Nov 2012-Nov 2013-0.4-0.1-0.5-0.1
Dec 2012-Dec 20130.4-0.6-0.50.3

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

** Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers. Other Carriers generally operate within specific niche markets. They are: Hawaiian Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and Island Air Hawaii.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Note: See Table 2 for all passenger airlines, Table 7 for Network, Table 10 for Low-Cost and Table 13 for Regional.

Table 2: Change from Previous Year in Scheduled Passenger Airline* Full-time Equivalent Employees**

Percent change compared to same month the previous year

Month2010201120122013
January-2.90.42.1-2.3
February-3.51.02.1-2.5
March-3.81.52.1-2.7
April-4.12.01.8-2.4
May-2.72.11.6-2.5
June-2.41.91.4-2.4
July-2.32.30.8-2.6
August-1.72.80.1-2.2
September-0.62.9-0.6-1.6
October-0.43.0-1.3-0.8
November0.02.6-2.0-0.1
December0.22.7-2.60.3

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers.

** Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 3: Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month

Month20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
January390,566379,388380,949388,778380,037-2.7-2.2
February391,596378,020381,831389,901380,375-2.9-2.4
March392,077377,261382,796390,761380,536-2.9-2.6
April392,104376,204383,411390,243380,957-2.8-2.4
May387,431376,957384,974390,957381,423-1.6-2.4
June387,665378,297385,383390,923381,672-1.5-2.4
July386,770378,060386,843391,286381,299-1.4-2.6
August384,304377,835388,523389,000380,564-1.0-2.2
September379,924377,676388,641386,372380,1650.1-1.6
October379,713378,112389,444384,310381,1780.4-0.8
November379,358379,335389,361381,639381,2240.5-0.1
December378,953379,651389,728379,576380,8090.50.3
12-Month Average385,872378,066385,990387,812380,853-1.3-1.8

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers.

** Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 4: Airline Group Full-time Equivalent Employees*, December 2009-2013

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalAll Passenger Airlines**
2009258,14862,61552,730378,953
2010256,83464,65252,549379,651
2011262,61768,88753,328389,728
2012254,06469,78050,423379,571
2013255,15569,36550,191380,809
Pct. Change 2009-2013-1.2%10.8%-4.8%0.5%
Percent of Total Passenger Airline Employees in 201367.0%18.2%13.2% 

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

** Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers.

Table 5: Year-to-Year Change in Airline Group Full-time Equivalent Employees*, December 2009-2013

Percent change in FTEs from the same month of the previous year

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalAll Passenger Airlines**
2009-2.50.0-8.9-3.3
2010-0.53.3-0.30.2
20112.36.61.52.7
2012-3.31.3-5.4-2.6
20130.4-0.6-0.50.3

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

** Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers.

Table 6: Top 10 Airlines, December 2013

Ranked by Number of Full-Time Equivalent Employees*

RankAirlineTotal FTE EmployeesCarrier Group**Top 10 Airlines December 2012
1United81,368NetworkUnited
2Delta73,356NetworkDelta
3American59,458NetworkAmerican
4Southwest44,831Low-CostSouthwest
5US Airways31,464NetworkUS Airways
6JetBlue12,952Low-CostJetBlue
7American Eagle11,030RegionalAmerican Eagle
8SkyWest9,696RegionalSkyWest
9Alaska9,509NetworkAlaska
10ExpressJet9,054RegionalExpressJet

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

** See Table 9 for Network, Table 12 for Low-Cost and Table 15 for Regional.

Table 7: Network Airline Year-to-Year Change in Full-time Equivalent Employees* from the Previous Year**

Percent change compared to same month of the previous year

 2010201120122013
January-2.30.31.5-3.1
February-3.01.11.2-3.0
March-3.11.51.2-3.3
April-3.61.81.3-3.0
May-1.92.11.3-3.0
June-1.61.61.4-2.8
July-1.62.10.8-2.8
August-0.92.7-0.2-2.5
September0.32.7-0.8-2.1
October-1.22.7-1.4-1.4
November-0.72.6-2.4-0.4
December-0.52.3-3.30.4

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Table 8: Network Airlines Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month 2009-2013

Month20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
January263,934257,787258,653262,561254,377-3.6-3.1
February264,561256,756259,545262,788254,955-3.6-3.0
March264,811256,504260,454263,464254,870-3.8-3.3
April265,199255,697260,347263,666255,673-3.6-3.0
May260,485255,518260,832264,183256,272-1.6-3.0
June260,808256,576260,689264,301256,791-1.5-2.8
July260,459256,373261,818263,793256,474-1.5-2.8
August258,569256,122263,063262,428255,800-1.1-2.5
September254,866255,751262,639260,649255,1940.1-2.1
October259,031255,890262,912259,245255,741-1.3-1.4
November258,132256,432263,129256,836255,914-0.9-0.4
December258,148256,834262,617254,065255,155-1.20.4
12-Month Average260,750256,353261,392261,498255,601-2.0-2.3

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 9: Network Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees*, December 2009-2013

(FTEs for December of each year. Ranked by December 2013 FTEs)

RankAirline20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
1UA/CO Combined77,09076,03081,08482,38381,3685.5-1.2
 United**43,94043,60943,95082,38381,368N/A-1.2
 Continental**33,15032,42137,134N/AN/AN/AN/A
2DL/NW Combined75,20776,52275,96772,52973,356-2.51.1
 Delta***48,95976,52275,96772,52973,356N/A1.1
 Northwest***26,248N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
3American66,65365,72366,13159,57459,458-10.8-0.2
4US Airways29,93429,60630,46630,31031,4645.13.8
5Alaska9,2658,9548,9709,2699,5092.62.6
 Total258,148256,834262,617254,064255,155-1.20.4

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

** United Airlines and Continental Airlines merged and began reporting combined numbers in January 2012.

*** Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines merged and began reporting combined numbers in January 2010.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 10: Low-Cost Airline Year-to-Year Change in Full-time Equivalent Employees* from the Previous Year

Percent change compared to same month of the previous year

Month2010201120122013
January1.42.25.71.1
February1.42.36.40.2
March1.22.37.1-0.1
April0.54.05.7-0.3
May0.64.15.3-0.3
June0.95.04.0-0.6
July1.55.33.5-0.4
August2.05.72.50.0
September2.75.92.5-0.2
October3.06.21.9-0.1
November3.25.91.4-0.1
December3.36.61.3-0.6

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 11: Low-Cost Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month

 20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
January62,69963,60064,97868,68469,46410.81.1
February62,95863,84565,32169,47369,59510.50.2
March63,02763,78365,27369,88669,85310.8-0.1
April63,27563,57166,11469,86169,67510.1-0.3
May63,53263,93366,55370,05369,8179.9-0.3
June63,50164,04667,26169,96969,5749.6-0.6
July63,02563,98167,37369,75669,51010.3-0.4
August62,77564,02267,68269,38069,36410.50.0
September62,40064,11367,87569,57369,42611.3-0.2
October62,40664,29768,26769,55169,49611.4-0.1
November62,63564,65768,45069,44169,40210.8-0.1
December62,61564,65268,88769,78169,36510.8-0.6
12-Month Average62,90464,04267,00369,61769,54510.6-0.1

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Note: Percent changes and averages based on numbers prior to rounding.

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Table 12: Low-Cost Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees*, December 2009-2013

(FTEs for December of each year. Ranked by December 2013 FTEs)

Rank 20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
1WN/FL Combined42,57042,89345,66345,86144,8315.3-2.2
 Southwest**34,72634,90137,64145,86144,831N/A-2.2
 AirTran7,8447,9928,022N/AN/AN/AN/A
2JetBlue10,85611,28712,13312,46012,95219.33.9
3Spirit1,9202,1982,7333,3673,54384.55.2
4Frontier4,2844,8974,6583,8983,494-18.4-10.4
5Virgin America1,4211,7702,1122,3792,48074.54.2
6Allegiant1,5651,6091,5901,8162,06531.913.7
 Total62,61664,65468,88769,78069,36510.8-0.6

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

** Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways merged and began reporting combined numbers in April 2012.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 13: Regional Airline Year-to-Year Change in Full-time Equivalent Employees* from the Previous Year

Percent change compared to same month of the previous year

Month2010201120122013
January-8.50.40.1-4.1
February-9.80.90.8-5.0
March-10.11.80.2-4.6
April-9.32.1-1.5-3.8
May-8.01.6-2.2-4.4
June-7.71.5-2.5-4.4
July-7.51.9-3.3-6.3
August-7.22.1-2.3-5.1
September-6.62.0-4.3-3.0
October0.52.1-6.0-0.8
November-1.00.6-5.4-0.5
December-0.31.5-5.4-0.5

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 14: Regional Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month

 20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
January57,43652,53152,76452,79650,637-11.8-4.1
February57,58151,95252,40952,83150,188-12.8-5.0
March57,31051,52252,46852,58150,180-12.4-4.6
April56,77851,50252,59651,81149,861-12.2-3.8
May56,62652,07452,93051,74649,478-12.6-4.4
June56,56352,21052,98451,66449,415-12.6-4.4
July56,47752,22953,19752,71549,387-12.6-6.3
August56,23652,17953,28452,08249,434-12.1-5.1
September56,00952,32253,36151,08249,546-11.5-3.0
October52,14352,40253,49050,30549,890-4.3-0.8
November53,17652,65652,95450,10049,851-6.3-0.5
December52,73052,54953,32850,42650,191-4.8-0.5
12-Month Average55,75552,17752,98051,67849,838-10.6-3.6

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 15: Regional Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees*, December 2009-2013

(FTEs for December of each year. Ranked by December 2013 FTEs)

Rank 20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
1American Eagle8,9969,48710,09110,75411,03022.62.6
2SkyWest8,6929,0689,4269,3009,69611.64.3
3XE/EV Combined8,8909,1249,3248,7799,0541.83.1
 ExpressJet**5,2895,4145,4848,7799,054N/A3.1
 Atlantic Southeast**3,6013,7103,840N/AN/AN/AN/A
49E/XJ Combined5,5605,6055,6944,7323,920-29.5-17.2
 Endeavor***3,3163,4413,8614,7323,920N/A-17.2
 Mesaba***2,2442,1641,833N/AN/AN/AN/A
5Horizon3,2102,9102,8302,6942,731-14.91.4
6Republic****2,6742,1051,9492,1372,647-1.023.9
7Air Wisconsin2,5102,5102,5512,5252,467-1.7-2.3
8Shuttle America1,2491,2981,5611,8761,98258.75.7
9Mesa2,5192,0451,8101,5401,804-28.417.1
10GoJet5605547461,2211,332137.99.1
11Compass8889501,0461,1991,279446.7
12Chautauqua#N/AN/AN/A1,3161,129N/A-14.2
13PSA9659951,0411,0881,12016.12.9
14Executive##1,7921,8291,7681,264N/AN/AN/A
15Colgan###1,2351,5111,5821N/AN/AN/A
16Comair####2,5942,4481,913N/AN/AN/AN/A
17Lynx#####399115N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
 Total52,73052,54953,32850,42650,191-4.8-0.5

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

** ExpressJet Airlines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines began reporting combined numbers in January 2012.

*** Endeavor Airlines operated as Pinnacle prior to August 2013. Pinnacle Airlines and Mesaba Airlines began reporting combined numbers in January 2012.

**** Effective with November 2009 reporting, Republic Airlines' employment numbers include FTE's from Midwest Airlines. Midwest employment data were formerly included in the "Other Airlines" category.

# Effective July 2012 Chautauqua Airlines began reporting employment data.

## Effective the end of March 2013, Executive Airlines ceased operations.

### Effective the end of September 2012, Colgan Airlines ceased operations.

#### Effective the end of October 2012, Comair ceased operations.

##### Effective the end of March 2011, Lynx Airlines ceased operations.

N/A: Carriers did not meet the standard for filing, was no longer operating, merged with another operating carrier or failed to file. See previous notes.

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Updated: Wednesday, December 6, 2017
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