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Passenger Airline Employment

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February 2013 Passenger Airline Employment Down 2.5 Percent from February 2012

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

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 380,159 workers in February 2013, 2.5 percent fewer than in February 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s EmEdjimurjE (BTS) reported today. February was the sixth consecutive month that full-time equivalent (FTE) employment for U.S. scheduled passenger carriers was below that of the same month of the previous year, following 21 months of increases from the same month of the previous year (December 2010 through August 2012) (Tables 1, 2).

BTS, a part of the Department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the February 2013 FTE total for scheduled passenger carriers was 9,742 fewer than in February 2012 (Table 3) and down 2.9 percent from the recent February high of 391,596 in February 2009. 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 3.0 percent fewer FTEs in February 2013 than in February 2012, the seventh consecutive decline from the same month of the previous year for the group. Delta Air Lines reduced FTEs by 3.7 percent from February 2012. American Airlines reduced FTEs by 9.1 percent over the same period. United Airlines reported a total of 82,414 FTEs in February 2013, 0.6 percent more FTEs than in February 2012. US Airways reported 0.4 percent more FTEs while Alaska Airlines increased FTEs by 3.3 percent from February 2012 (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.

Four of the six low-cost carriers, Allegiant Airlines, Virgin America Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways, reported an increase in FTEs. Southwest Airlines, following its merger with AirTran Airways, reported 45,857 FTEs in February 2013, 0.2 percent less than the two airlines reported separately in February 2012. Frontier Airlines also reported fewer FTEs (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 14 regional carriers, seven carriers reported reduced employment levels in February compared to last year: ExpressJet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Horizon Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, Air Wisconsin and Executive Airlines (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 67.1 percent of the total number of FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in February, the six low-cost carriers employed 18.3 percent and the 14 regional carriers employed 13.2 percent (Table 4). The three airlines with the most FTEs in February – United, Delta and American – employed 56.6 percent of the month’s total passenger airline FTEs (Table 6).

Top employers by group: The newly-merged United employed the most FTEs (82,214) in February among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (45,857) among low-cost airlines, and American Eagle Airlines employed the most FTEs (11,355) among regional airlines. Four of the top five employers in the industry are network airlines (Table 6).

Network Airlines

Recent Trend: The network airlines employed 7,833 fewer FTEs in February 2013 than in February 2012, a 3.0 percent decrease. Three of the five network carriers reported an FTE increase from February 2012 to February 2013 (Tables 8, 9).

Five-Year Trend: The network airlines employed 9,606 fewer FTEs in February 2013 than in February 2009, a 3.6 percent decrease. American reported the biggest percentage decline in FTE employment from 2009 to 2013, 15.0 percent, followed by US Airways, down 2.2 percent. February 2009 and February 2013 numbers for United and Delta are not directly comparable because of the intervening mergers. United reported 1.8 percent more FTEs in February 2013 than United and Continental reported separately in February 2009; Delta reported 0.4 percent more FTEs in February 2013 than Delta and Northwest reported separately in February 2009 (Tables 8, 9).

Low-Cost Airlines

Recent Trend: The six low-cost airlines’ reported 0.2 percent more FTEs in February 2013 than in February 2012. All low-cost airlines except Frontier and Southwest reported year-to-year increases (Table 12).

Five-Year Trend: The six low-cost carriers reporting employment data in both 2009 and 2013 employed 10.5 percent more FTEs in February 2013 than in February 2009.  Virgin America reported the largest percentage increase (75.0 percent), while Frontier reported a 12.6 percent decline. February 2013 numbers for Southwest are not directly comparable to 2009 because of the intervening merger. Southwest reported 5.7 percent more FTEs in February 2013 than Southwest and AirTran Airways reported separately in February 2009 (Table 12).

Regional Airlines

Recent Trend: Regional airlines reported a 5.0 percent decrease in FTE employment in February 2013 compared to February 2012. GoJet Airlines and American Eagle reported the largest percentage increases in FTEs from February 2012 to February 2013 among airlines not involved in mergers. Executive and Mesa reported the largest percentage decreases (Table 15).

Five-Year Trend: The 14 regional carriers reporting employment data in both February 2009 and February 2013 employed 12.8 percent fewer FTEs in 2013 than in 2009. For airlines not involved in mergers, Executive reported the largest percentage decline followed by Mesa. The ExpressJet/Atlantic Southeast combination reported 7.1 percent fewer FTE’s in February 2013 than the two airlines reported separately in February 2009.  The Pinnacle/Mesaba combination reported 39.9 percent fewer FTE’s in February 2013 than the two airlines reported separately in February 2009.  GoJet reported the biggest four-year percentage gain (Table 15).

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

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

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial air carriers as of April 11. Additional and previous press releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of March passenger airline employment data for May 29.

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**
Feb 2011-Feb 20121.26.40.92.1
Mar 2011-Mar 20121.27.10.22.1
Apr 2011-Apr 20121.35.7-1.51.8
May 2011-May 20121.35.3-2.21.6
Jun 2011-Jun 20121.44.0-2.51.4
Jul 2011-Jul 20120.83.5-3.30.8
Aug 2011-Aug 2012-0.22.5-2.30.1
Sep 2011-Sep 2012-0.82.5-4.3-0.6
Oct 2011-Oct 2012-1.41.9-6.0-1.3
Nov 2011-Nov 2012-2.41.4-5.4-2.0
Dec 2011-Dec 2012-3.31.3-5.4-2.6
Jan 2012-Jan 2013-3.11.1-4.1-2.3
Feb 2012-Feb 2013-3.00.2-5.0-2.5

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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 and Sun Country Airlines.

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 
April-4.12.01.8 
May-2.72.11.6 
June-2.41.91.4 
July-2.32.30.8 
August-1.72.80.1 
September-0.62.9-0.6 
October-0.43.0-1.3 
November0.02.6-2.0 
December0.22.7-2.6 

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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
January390,566379,388380,949388,778379,816-2.7-2.3
February391,596378,020381,831389,901380,159-2.9-2.5
March392,077377,261382,796390,761   
April392,104376,204383,411390,243   
May387,431376,957384,974390,957   
June387,665378,297385,383390,923   
July386,770378,060386,843390,032   
August384,304377,835388,523388,992   
September379,924377,676388,641386,372   
October379,713378,112389,444384,310   
November379,358379,335389,361381,639   
December378,953379,651389,728379,571   
12-Month Average385,872378,066385,967387,707   
Jan-Feb Average391,081378,704381,390389,340379,988-2.8-2.4

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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*, February 2009-2013

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalAll Passenger Airlines**
2009264,56162,95857,581391,596
2010256,75663,84551,952378,020
2011259,54565,32152,409381,831
2012262,78869,47352,831389,901
2013254,95569,59550,188380,159
Pct. Change 2009-2013-3.6%10.5%-12.8%-2.9%
Percent of Total Passenger Airline Employees in 201367.1%18.3%13.2% 

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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*, February 2009-2013

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

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalAll Passenger Airlines**
2009-6.4-3.0-4.9-6.5
2010-3.01.4-9.8-3.5
20111.12.30.91.0
20121.26.40.82.1
2013-3.00.2-5.0-2.5

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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, February 2013

Ranked by Number of Full-Time Equivalent Employees*

RankAirlineTotal FTE EmployeesCarrier Group**Top 10 Airlines February 2012
1United82,214NetworkUnited
2Delta73,465NetworkDelta
3American59,461NetworkAmerican
4Southwest45,857Low-CostSouthwest
5US Airways30,507NetworkUS Airways
6JetBlue12,678Low-CostJetBlue
7American Eagle11,355RegionalAmerican Eagle
8SkyWest9,382RegionalExpressJet
9Alaska9,308NetworkSkyWest
10ExpressJet8,801RegionalAlaska

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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 
April-3.61.81.3 
May-1.92.11.3 
June-1.61.61.4 
July-1.62.10.8 
August-0.92.7-0.2 
September0.32.7-0.8 
October-1.22.7-1.4 
November-0.72.6-2.4 
December-0.52.3-3.3 

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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
March264,811256,504260,454263,464   
April265,199255,697260,347263,666   
May260,485255,518260,832264,183   
June260,808256,576260,689264,301   
July260,459256,373261,818263,793   
August258,569256,122263,063262,426   
September254,866255,751262,639260,649   
October259,031255,890262,912259,245   
November258,132256,432263,129256,836   
December258,148256,834262,617254,064   
12-Month Average260,750256,353261,385261,498   
Jan-Feb Average264,248257,272259,099262,675254,666-3.6-3.0

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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*, February 2009-2013

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

RankAirline20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
1UA/CO Combined80,78476,83377,10681,69382,2141.80.6
 United**45,76143,69743,60281,69382,214N/A0.6
 Continental**35,02333,13633,504N/AN/AN/AN/A
2DL/NW Combined73,15274,64777,78376,28273,4650.4-3.7
 Delta***45,32474,64777,78376,28273,465N/A-3.7
 Northwest***27,828N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
3American69,93466,53866,03465,41359,461-15.0-9.1
4US Airways31,20129,51229,72230,39330,507-2.20.4
5Alaska9,4929,2288,9019,0079,308-1.93.3
 Total264,561256,756259,546262,788254,955-3.6-3.0

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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 
April0.54.05.7 
May0.64.15.3 
June0.95.04.0 
July1.55.33.5 
August2.05.72.5 
September2.75.92.5 
October3.06.21.9 
November3.25.91.4 
December3.36.61.3 

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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
March63,02763,78365,27369,886   
April63,27563,57166,11469,861   
May63,53263,93366,55370,053   
June63,50164,04667,26169,969   
July63,02563,98167,37369,755   
August62,77564,02267,68269,379   
September62,40064,11367,87569,573   
October62,40664,29768,26769,551   
November62,63564,65768,45069,441   
December62,61564,65268,88769,780   
12-Month Average62,90464,04267,00369,617   
Jan-Feb Average62,82963,72365,15069,07969,53010.70.7

Source: EmEdjimurjE

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*, February 2009-2013

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

Rank 20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
1WN/FL Combined43,38542,56343,27145,92645,8575.7-0.2
 Southwest**35,54334,73035,35738,46845,857N/AN/A
 AirTran7,8427,8337,9147,458N/AN/AN/A
2JetBlue10,53911,20111,45812,45912,67820.31.8
3Frontier4,4055,0614,9044,5083,850-12.6-14.6
4Spirit1,8891,9512,2432,6302,99258.413.8
5Virgin America1,3441,5101,8282,3052,35275.02.0
6Allegiant1,3981,5601,6191,6481,86733.513.3
 Total62,95863,84565,32169,47369,59510.50.2

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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 
April-9.32.1-1.5 
May-8.01.6-2.2 
June-7.71.5-2.5 
July-7.51.9-3.3 
August-7.22.1-2.3 
September-6.62.0-4.3 
October0.52.1-6.0 
November-1.00.6-5.4 
December-0.31.5-5.4 

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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
March57,31051,52252,46852,581   
April56,77851,50252,59651,811   
May56,62652,07452,93051,746   
June56,56352,21052,98451,664   
July56,47752,22953,19751,463   
August56,23652,17953,28452,079   
September56,00952,32253,36151,082   
October52,14352,40253,49050,305   
November53,17652,65652,95450,100   
December52,73052,54953,32850,423   
12-Month Average55,75552,17752,98051,573   
Jan-Feb Average57,50952,24252,58752,81450,413-12.3-4.5

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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*, February 2009-2013

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

Rank 20092010201120122013Percent Change
2009-20132012-2013
1American Eagle9,2149,0449,5489,94811,35523.214.1
2SkyWest9,0188,9459,1289,3879,3824.0-0.1
3XE/EV Combined9,4738,9018,9479,4428,801-7.1-6.8
 ExpressJet**5,2645,3445,2159,4428,801N/A-6.8
 Atlantic Southeast**4,2093,5573,732N/AN/AN/AN/A
49E/XJ Combined7,4585,4815,6245,0884,485-39.9-11.9
 Pinnacle***3,6103,2773,4485,0884,485N/A-11.9
 Mesaba***3,8482,2042,176N/AN/AN/AN/A
5Horizon3,3953,1492,8852,8242,687-20.9-4.9
6Air Wisconsin2,5842,4952,5852,6002,538-1.8-2.4
7Republic****1,4771,9252,1461,9772,22650.712.6
8Shuttle America1,3131,2521,3061,8112,01353.311.2
9Mesa2,8512,3281,9901,8081,541-45.9-14.8
10Chautauqua#N/AN/AN/AN/A1,218N/AN/A
11Compass8049498921,0761,08234.60.6
12PSA1,1739809549891,080-7.99.2
13GoJet4805455697691,039116.535.1
14Executive1,6771,8031,8841,622744-55.6-54.1
15Colgan##1,2731,2231,5141,722N/AN/AN/A
16Comair###5,2132,5712,3121,705N/AN/AN/A
17Lynx####37439094N/AN/AN/AN/A
 Total57,58151,95252,40952,83150,188-12.8-5.0

Source: EmEdjimurjE

* 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.

*** 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 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: Monday, December 11, 2017
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