Passenger Airline Employment

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December 2015 Passenger Airline Employment Data

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U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 3.7 percent more workers in December 2015 than in December 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today. December was the highest monthly total (400,422) since August 2008 and was the 25th consecutive month that U.S. scheduled passenger airlines full-time equivalent (FTE) employment exceeded the same month of the previous year (Tables 1, 2, 3).

Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-Time Equivalent Employees, Month of December, 1990-2015

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Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-Time Equivalent Employees, Month of December, 1990-2015

Month-to-month, the number of FTEs was virtually unchanged from November to December, after four consecutive month-to-month increases (Table 1A). Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines. can be found on the BTS web site.

The four network airlines that collectively employ two-thirds of the scheduled passenger airline FTEs reported 3.5 percent more FTEs in December 2015 than in December 2014 (Table 7). Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines increased FTEs from December 2014 while United Airlines’ FTEs were virtually unchanged (Table 9). American Airlines, which has merged with US Airways, reported 5.2 percent more FTEs in December 2015 than American and US Airways reported separately in December 2014. July 2015 was the first month for which the two merged airlines submitted a combined report. Month-to-month, the number of network airline FTEs was virtually unchanged from November to December (Table 1A). Network airlines operate a significant portion of their flights using at least one hub where connections are made for flights to down-line destinations or spoke cities.

The six low-cost carriers reported 7.7 percent more FTEs in December 2015 than in December 2014 (Table 10). Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines reported increases while Frontier Airlines reduced FTEs (Table 12). Month-to-month, the number of low-cost airline FTEs rose 0.2 percent from November to December, rising for the ninth consecutive month (Table 1A). Low-cost airlines operate under a low-cost business model, with infrastructure and aircraft operating costs below the overall industry average.

The 12 regional carriers reported 1.0 percent fewer FTEs in December 2015 than in December 2014 (Table 13). Six regional airlines – PSA Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Compass Airlines, Horizon Air, SkyWest Airlines and Republic Airlines – reported increased employment levels. The others reported decreases (Table 15). Month-to-month, the number of regional airline FTEs was virtually unchanged from November to December (Table 1A). Regional carriers typically provide service from small cities, using primarily regional jets to support the network carriers’ hub and spoke systems.

Carrier Groups: The four network airlines employed 66.5 percent of the 400,422 FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in December, the six low-cost carriers employed 19.5 percent and the 12 regional carriers employed 12.4 percent (Table 4). The three airlines with the most FTEs in December – American, Delta and United– employed 63.7 percent of the month’s total passenger airline FTEs (Tables 3, 6). From 2006 to 2015, the network share of FTEs rose from 64.9 percent to 66.5 percent, the low-cost share rose from 17.9 percent to 19.5 percent and the regional airline share dropped from 14.4 percent to 12.4 percent (Table 5).

Top Employers by Group: American employed the most FTEs (97,285) in December among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (49,583) among low-cost airlines, and SkyWest employed the most FTEs (10,411) among regional airlines. The top three employers in the industry are network airlines (Table 6).    

Airline Mergers: Airlines that announce mergers typically begin joint reporting following U.S. Department of Transportation approval and issuance of a single economic certificate. American and US Airways began reporting jointly with the report of July employment numbers. The airlines announced a merger in January 2013.

Network Airlines
The network airlines employed 3.5 percent more FTEs in December 2015 than in December 2014 and 2.4 percent more FTEs in December 2015 than in December 2011 (Tables 8, 9).

Low-Cost Airlines
The six low-cost airlines employed 7.7 percent more FTEs in December 2015 than in December 2014 and 13.2 percent more FTEs in December 2015 than in December 2011 (Tables 11, 12).

Regional Airlines
Regional airlines employed 1.0 percent fewer FTEs in December 2015 than in December 2014.  The 12 regional carriers reporting in December 2015 employed 7.1 percent fewer FTEs in December 2015 than the 17 carriers reporting in December 2011 (Tables 14, 15).

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 the Hawaiian Islands served by Hawaiian Airlines and Island Air Hawaii.

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial air carriers as of Feb. 9. Additional and previous press releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of January passenger airline employment data for March 17.  

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

Most recent 13 months - percent change from same month of the previous year

 Network AirlinesLow-Cost AirlinesRegional AirlinesAll Passenger Airlines**
Dec 2013-Dec 20140.84.4-0.21.4
Jan 2014-Jan 20150.84.6-1.91.2
Feb 2014-Feb 20151.44.6-0.31.8
Mar 2014-Mar 20151.74.0-0.51.9
Apr 2014-Apr 20152.44.2-0.42.4
May 2014-May 20152.74.3-0.32.6
Jun 2014-Jun 20153.14.90.13.0
Jul 2014-Jul 20153.15.2-3.32.7
Aug 2014-Aug 20153.75.8-2.73.3
Sep 2014-Sep 20153.66.5-2.73.3
Oct 2014-Oct 20153.66.7-0.63.7
Nov 2014-Nov 20153.76.4-2.13.4
Dec 2014-Dec 20153.57.7-1.03.7

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 1A: Monthly Change in Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Airline Group

Percent change in FTEs from the previous month

 Network AirlinesLow-Cost AirlinesRegional AirlinesAll Passenger Airlines**
Dec 2014-Jan 20150.10.7-1.20.1
Jan 2015-Feb 20150.50.61.70.6
Feb 2015-Mar 20150.8-0.20.10.5
Mar 2015-Apr 20150.81.7-0.10.7
Apr 2015-May 20150.60.60.30.6
May 2015-Jun 20150.40.6-0.20.3
Jun 2015-Jul 20150.00.5-1.8-0.1
Jul 2015-Aug 20150.00.7-0.20.1
Aug 2015-Sep 2015-0.10.7-0.20.1
Sep 2015-Oct 20150.11.10.60.4
Oct 2015-Nov 20150.20.80.10.3
Nov 2015-Dec 20150.00.20.00.0

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

Month2012201320142015
January2.1-2.30.51.2
February2.1-2.50.41.8
March2.1-2.70.81.9
April1.8-2.41.02.6
May1.6-2.51.12.6
June1.1-2.40.93.0
July1.4-2.61.32.7
August0.6-2.21.03.3
September0.2-1.61.13.3
October-1.3-0.80.93.7
November-2.0-0.11.53.4
December-2.60.31.43.7

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 2011-2015

Month20112012201320142015Percent Change
2011-20152014-2015
January380,949388,778380,042381,819386,5591.51.2
February381,831389,901380,375381,985388,9831.91.8
March387,063390,761380,536383,575390,8411.01.9
April383,721390,243380,957384,265393,4462.52.4
May385,027390,957381,423385,619395,6262.82.6
June386,844390,923381,672385,243396,9732.63.0
July387,240391,286381,299386,243396,5032.42.7
August386,783389,000380,564384,478397,0072.63.3
September385,548386,372380,165384,501397,2263.03.3
October386,371384,310381,178384,700398,9463.33.7
November386,336381,639381,224386,912400,3093.63.5
December386,720379,576380,809386,222400,4223.53.7
12-Month Average385,369387,812380,854384,630395,2372.62.8

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 2011-2015

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalAll Passenger Airlines**
2011259,82268,88953,332382,043
2012254,06469,78050,423379,571
2013255,15569,36550,191380,809
2014257,25172,39950,083386,222
2015266,13677,96949,569400,422
Percent of Total Passenger Airline Employees in 201566.5%19.5%12.4%100%

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: Carrier Group Percent of Total Scheduled Passenger Airline FTEs 2006-2015

(December of each year)

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalOther
200664.917.914.42.8
201067.717.013.81.5
201466.618.713.01.7
201566.519.512.41.7

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 2015

Ranked by Number of Full-Time Equivalent Employees*

RankAirlineTotal FTE EmployeesCarrier Group**Top 10 Airlines December 2014
1American97,285NetworkUnited
2Delta79,072NetworkDelta
3United78,858NetworkAmerican
4Southwest49,583Low-CostSouthwest
5JetBlue15,219Low-CostUS Airways
6Alaska10,921NetworkJetBlue
7SkyWest10,411RegionalEnvoy
8Envoy9,748RegionalAlaska
9ExpressJet7,394RegionalSkyWest
10Spirit4,702Low-CostExpressJet

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

 2012201320142015
January1.5-3.10.40.8
February1.2-3.00.11.4
March1.2-3.30.61.7
April1.3-3.00.42.4
May1.3-3.00.52.7
June0.8-2.80.33.1
July0.6-2.80.43.1
August0.4-2.50.13.7
September0.3-2.10.43.6
October-1.4-1.40.33.6
November-2.4-0.40.43.7
December-3.30.40.83.5

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 2011-2015

Month20112012201320142015Percent Change
2011-20152014-2015
January258,889262,561254,377255,518257,627-0.50.8
February259,816262,788254,955255,158258,796-0.41.4
March260,773263,464254,870256,342260,7940.01.7
April260,649263,666255,673256,732262,9050.92.4
May261,154264,183256,272257,578264,4381.32.7
June262,145264,301256,791257,491265,4861.33.1
July262,208263,793256,474257,541265,5511.33.1
August261,316262,428255,800256,095265,5671.63.7
September259,782260,651255,194256,133265,3152.13.6
October260,056259,245255,741256,409265,7042.23.6
November260,318256,836255,914256,823266,2512.33.7
December259,822254,065255,155257,251266,1362.43.5
12-Month Average260,577261,498255,601256,589263,7141.22.8

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 2011-2015

(FTEs for December of each year. Ranked by December 2015 FTEs)

RankAirline20112012201320142015Percent Change
2011-20152014-2015
1AA/US Combined96,59789,88490,92292,47797,2850.75.2
 American**66,13159,57459,45860,71497,285N/AN/A
 US Airways**30,46630,31031,46431,763N/AN/AN/A
2Delta73,17172,52973,35675,73779,0728.14.4
3UA/CO Combined81,08482,38381,36878,83578,858-2.70.0
 United***43,95082,38381,36878,83578,858N/A0.0
 Continental***37,134N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
4Alaska8,9709,2699,50910,20210,92121.87.0
 Total259,822254,065255,155257,251266,1362.43.5

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

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

** American Airlines and US Airways merged and began reporting combined numbers in July 2015.

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

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

Month2012201320142015
January5.71.10.34.6
February6.40.20.74.6
March7.1-0.10.84.0
April5.7-0.31.54.2
May5.3-0.31.84.3
June4.0-0.65.04.9
July3.5-0.42.55.2
August2.50.03.05.8
September2.5-0.22.96.5
October1.9-0.13.86.9
November1.4-0.15.26.5
December1.3-0.64.47.7

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 2011-2015

 20112012201320142015Percent Change
2011-20152014-2015
January64,97868,68469,46469,69372,90912.24.6
February65,32369,47369,59570,13573,35112.34.6
March65,46769,88669,85370,38473,18011.84.0
April66,11769,86169,67570,75173,69511.54.2
May66,55570,05369,81771,09574,16711.44.3
June67,26369,96969,57471,07474,59210.94.9
July67,37569,75669,51071,27274,99911.35.2
August67,68369,38069,36471,38775,54911.65.8
September67,87669,57569,42671,42876,07612.16.5
October68,26969,55169,49672,11077,06312.96.9
November68,45169,44169,40273,01477,78313.66.5
December68,88969,78169,36572,39977,96913.27.7
12-Month Average67,02169,61869,54571,22975,11112.15.5

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 2011-2015

(FTEs for December of each year. Ranked by December 2015 FTEs)

Rank 20112012201320142015Percent Change
2011-20152014-2015
1WN/FL Combined45,66345,86144,83146,27849,5838.67.1
 Southwest**37,64145,86144,83146,27849,583N/A7.1
 AirTran8,022N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
2JetBlue12,13312,46012,95213,66515,21925.411.4
3Spirit2,7333,3673,5433,9254,70272.019.8
4Frontier4,6583,8983,4943,6252,887-38.0-20.4
5Allegiant1,5901,8162,0652,4052,84378.818.2
6Virgin America2,1122,3792,4802,5012,73529.59.4
 Total68,88969,78169,36572,39977,96913.27.7

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 employment 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

Month2012201320142015
January0.1-4.1-0.4-1.9
February0.8-5.00.5-0.3
March0.2-4.60.9-0.5
April-1.5-3.82.3-0.4
May-2.2-4.52.4-0.3
June-2.5-4.41.90.1
July-0.9-6.33.5-3.3
August-2.3-5.12.5-2.7
September-4.3-3.01.9-2.7
October-6.0-0.8-0.2-0.6
November-5.4-0.51.5-2.1
December-5.4-0.5-0.2-1.0

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 2011-2015

 20112012201320142015Percent Change
2011-20152014-2015
January52,76452,79650,64050,42549,484-6.2-1.9
February52,41352,83150,18850,45850,325-4.0-0.3
March52,47052,58150,18050,62350,368-4.0-0.5
April52,60151,81149,86150,52650,333-4.3-0.4
May52,93351,74649,47850,63350,474-4.6-0.3
June52,98751,66449,41550,33650,373-4.90.1
July53,20152,71549,38751,10749,403-7.1-3.3
August53,28852,08249,43450,67149,320-7.4-2.7
September53,36351,08549,54650,57449,231-7.7-2.7
October53,49450,30549,89049,78949,504-7.5-0.6
November52,95750,10049,85150,60549,551-6.4-2.1
December53,33250,42650,19150,08349,569-7.1-1.0
12-Month Average52,98451,67949,83850,48649,828-6.0-1.3

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 15: Regional Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees*, December 2011-2015

(FTEs for December of each year. Ranked by December 2015 FTEs)

Rank 20112012201320142015Percent Change
2011-20152014-2015
1SkyWest9,4269,3009,6969,64210,411108
2Envoy10,09110,75411,03010,8419,748-3-10
3XE/EV Combined9,3248,7799,0548,6717,394-21-15
 ExpressJet**5,4848,7799,0548,6717,394N/A-15
 Atlantic Southeast**3,840N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
49E/XJ Combined5,6944,7323,9203,4473,292-42-4
 Endeavor***3,8614,7323,9203,4473,292N/A-4
 Mesaba***1,833N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
5Horizon2,8302,6942,7312,8953,2141411
6Republic1,9492,1372,6473,1223,124600
7Mesa1,8101,5401,8042,2042,7905427
8PSA1,0411,0881,1201,7992,45413636
9S5/RP Combined1,5613,1923,1112,7612,41855-12
 Shuttle America#1,5611,8761,9822,7152,418N/AN/A
 Chautauqua#N/A1,3161,12946N/AN/AN/A
10Air Wisconsin2,5512,5252,4671,8931,834-28-3
11Compass1,0461,1991,2791,4661,6535813
12GoJet7461,2211,3321,3421,23766-8
13Executive##1,7681,264N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
14Colgan###1,5821N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
15Comair####1,913N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
 Total53,33250,42650,19150,08349,569-7-1

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 July 2012 Chautauqua Airlines began reporting employment data. Chautauqua did not qualify for monthly reporting prior to July 2012 because it did not operate aircraft with more than 60 seats. Effective the end of December 2014, Shuttle America and Chautauqua combined operations and Chautauqua ceased operating.

## 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.

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: Friday, December 15, 2017
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