Passenger Airline Employment

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November 2012 Passenger Airline Employment Down 2.0 Percent from November 2011

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Employment, 1990-2012

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 381,639 workers in November 2012, 2.0 percent fewer than in November 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today. Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines. This was the third consecutive month that full-time equivalent (FTE) employment for U.S. scheduled passenger carriers has been lower than the same month of the previous year. This follows 22 months of year-to-year increases that began in November 2010 (Table 2).

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the November 2012 FTE total for scheduled passenger carriers was 7,722 fewer than in November 2011 and is the lowest monthly total since January 2011 (Table 3).   can be found on the BTS web site.

There were 0.7 percent fewer FTEs in November 2012 than in October 2012.  Month-to-month changes can be affected by seasonal factors, such as the number of flights and passengers.

The five network airlines that collectively employ two-thirds of the scheduled passenger airline FTEs reported 2.4 percent fewer FTEs in November 2012, the fourth consecutive decline for the group. Delta Air Lines, eliminating positions following its merger with Northwest Airlines, reduced FTEs by 3.6 percent from November 2011. American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, reduced FTEs by 7.4 percent. United Airlines reported a post-merger total of 82,381 FTEs in November 2012, 1,384 or 1.7 percent more FTEs than the 80,997 United and Continental Airlines reported separately in November 2011 (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.

Among the six low-cost carriers, Allegiant Airlines, Virgin America Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways reported an increase in FTEs.  Frontier Airlines was the only low-cost carrier reporting fewer FTEs. Southwest Airlines reported 45,953 FTEs in November 2012 in a joint report following its merger with AirTran Airways. The combined total was 348 or 0.8 percent more than the 45,605 FTEs the two airlines reported separately in November 2011 (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 16 regional carriers, seven carriers reported reduced employment levels in November compared to last year: ExpressJet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Horizon Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, Air Wisconsin and Executive Airlines. The total number of FTEs reported by Pinnacle – which recently merged with Mesaba Airlines – was 15.7 percent fewer than the total number of FTEs reported individually by the two airlines prior to the merger (Table 15). Colgan Airlines, which ceased flight operations after September 2012, reported one FTE in November. 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 67.3 percent of the total number of FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in November, the six low-cost carriers employed 18.2 percent and the 16 regional carriers employed 13.1 percent (Table 4). The three airlines with the most FTEs in November – United, Delta and American – employed 56.9 percent of the total passenger airline FTEs (Table 6).

Top employers by group: The newly-merged United employed the most FTEs (82,381) in November among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (45,953) among low-cost airlines, and American Eagle Airlines employed the most FTEs (10,616) 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 6,293 fewer FTEs in November 2012 than in November 2011. Only two of the five network carriers increased FTEs from November 2011 to November 2012 (Tables 8, 9).

Five-Year Trend: The network airlines employed 8,391 fewer FTEs in November 2012 than in November 2008, a 3.2 percent decrease. American reported the biggest percentage decline in FTE employment from 2008 to 2012, 12.4 percent, followed by Alaska Airlines, down 4.4 percent. November 2008 and November 2012 numbers for United and Delta are not directly comparable because of the intervening mergers. United reported 1.3 percent more FTEs in November 2012 than United and Continental reported separately in November 2008; Delta reported 0.6 percent more FTEs in November 2012 than Delta and Northwest reported separately in November 2008 (Tables 8, 9).

Low-Cost Airlines

Recent Trend: The six low-cost airlines’ FTEs were up 1.4 percent in November 2012 from November 2011. All low-cost airlines except Frontier reported year-to-year increases (Table 12).

Five-Year Trend: The six low-cost carriers reporting employment data in both 2008 and 2012 employed 10.8 percent more FTEs in November 2012 than in November 2008.  Virgin America reported the largest percentage increase (90.9 percent), while Frontier reported a decline. November 2012 numbers for Southwest are not directly comparable to 2008 because of the intervening merger. Southwest reported 6.9 percent more FTEs in November 2012 than Southwest and AirTran reported separately in November 2008 (Table 12).

Regional Airlines

Recent Trend: Regional airlines reported a 5.4 percent decrease in FTE employment in November 2012 compared to November 2011. GoJet Airlines and Shuttle America report the largest percentage increases in FTEs from November 2011 to November 2012 among airlines not involved in mergers. Executive and Pinnacle reported the largest percentage decreases. Atlantic Southeast Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines reported separately in November 2011, as did Pinnacle and Mesaba, while their reports were combined in November 2012 as a result of mergers (Table 15).

Five-Year Trend: The 13 regional carriers reporting employment data in both November 2008 and November 2012 employed 12.8 percent fewer FTEs in 2012 than in 2008. For airlines not involved in mergers, Mesa reported the largest percentage decline followed by Executive. The Pinnacle/Mesaba combination reported 33.9 percent fewer FTE’s in November 2012 than the two airlines reported separately in November 2008.  GoJet reported the biggest four-year percentage gain. Effective with January 2011 reporting, Republic Airline’s employment numbers include FTEs from Midwest Airlines. Midwest employment data were formerly included in the "Other Airlines" category (Table 15).

Airlines that operate at least one aircraft with the capacity to carry combined passengers, cargo and fuel of 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 Jan. 10. Additional and previous press releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of December passenger airline employment data for Feb. 27.

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**
Nov 2010-Nov 20112.65.90.62.6
Dec 2010-Dec 20112.36.51.52.7
Jan 2011-Jan 20121.55.70.12.1
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

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 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

Month2009201020112012
January-6.7-2.90.42.1
February-6.6-3.51.02.1
March-5.6-3.81.52.1
April-5.5-4.12.01.8
May-6.8-2.72.11.6
June-6.3-2.41.91.4
July-5.9-2.32.30.8
August-5.5-1.72.80.1
September-4.4-0.62.9-0.6
October-3.7-0.43.0-1.3
November-3.30.02.6-2.0
December-3.30.22.7 

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

Month20082009201020112012Percent Change
2008-20122011-2012
January418,702390,566379,388380,949388,778-7.12.1
February419,014391,596378,020381,831389,901-6.92.1
March415,516392,077377,261382,796390,761-6.02.1
April415,391392,104376,204383,411390,243-6.11.8
May415,484387,431376,957384,974390,957-5.91.6
June414,406387,665378,297385,383390,923-5.71.4
July411,085386,770378,060386,843390,032-5.10.8
August406,716384,304377,835388,523388,992-4.40.1
September397,295379,924377,676388,641386,372-2.7-0.6
October394,166379,713378,112389,444384,310-2.5-1.3
November392,095379,358379,335389,361381,639-2.7-2.0
December391,806378,953379,651389,728   
12-Month Average407,640385,872378,066385,967   
Jan-Nov Average409,079386,501377,922385,651388,446-5.00.7

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 4: Airline Group Full-time Equivalent Employees*, November 2008-2012

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalAll Passenger Airlines**
2008265,22762,69957,464392,095
2009258,13262,63553,176379,358
2010256,43264,65752,656379,335
2011263,12968,45052,954389,361
2012256,83669,44150,100381,639
Pct. Change 2008-2012-3.2%10.8%-12.8%-2.7%
Percent of Total Passenger Airline Employees in 201267.3%18.2%13.1% 

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*, November 2008-2012

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

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalAll Passenger Airlines**
2008-6.2-2.8-6.0-6.5
2009-2.7-0.1-7.5-3.2
2010-0.73.2-1.00.0
20112.65.90.62.6
2012-2.41.4-5.4-2.0

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.

Table 6: Top 10 Airlines, November 2012

Ranked by Number of Full-Time Equivalent Employees*

RankAirlineTotal FTE EmployeesCarrier Group**Top 10 Airlines November 2011
1United82,381NetworkDelta
2Delta73,408NetworkAmerican
3American61,457NetworkUnited
4Southwest45,953Low-CostSouthwest
5US Airways30,383NetworkContinental
6JetBlue12,465Low-CostUS Airways
7American Eagle10,616RegionalJetBlue
8SkyWest9,283RegionalAmerican Eagle
9Alaska9,208NetworkSkyWest
10ExpressJet8,824RegionalAlaska

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 Airlines - Year-to-Year Change in Full-time Equivalent Employees* from the Previous Year**

Percent change compared to same month the previous year

 2009201020112012
January-6.3-2.30.31.5
February-6.4-3.01.11.2
March-6.7-3.11.51.2
April-6.5-3.61.81.3
May-8.2-1.92.11.3
June-7.8-1.61.61.4
July-7.1-1.62.10.8
August-6.4-0.92.7-0.2
September-5.00.32.7-0.8
October-2.8-1.22.7-1.4
November-2.7-0.72.6-2.4
December-2.5-0.52.3 

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 2008-2012

Month20082009201020112012Percent Change
2008-20122011-2012
January281,701263,934257,787258,653262,561-6.81.5
February282,627264,561256,756259,545262,788-7.01.2
March283,917264,811256,504260,454263,464-7.21.2
April283,684265,199255,697260,347263,666-7.11.3
May283,628260,485255,518260,832264,183-6.91.3
June282,799260,808256,576260,689264,301-6.51.4
July280,357260,459256,373261,818263,793-5.90.8
August276,118258,569256,122263,063262,426-5.0-0.2
September268,416254,866255,751262,639260,649-2.9-0.8
October266,608259,031255,890262,912259,245-2.8-1.4
November265,227258,132256,432263,129256,836-3.2-2.4
December264,744258,148256,834262,617   
12-Month Average276,652260,750256,353261,385   
Jan-Nov Average277,735260,987256,310261,280262,174-5.60.3

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: By Network Airline: Full-time Equivalent Employees*, November 2008-2012

(FTEs for November of each year. Ranked by November 2012 FTEs)

RankAirline20082009201020112012Percent Change
2008-20122011-2012
1UA/CO Combined81,30577,04976,08080,99782,3811.31.7
 United***46,79243,89243,60943,76182,381N/AN/A
 Continental***34,51333,15732,47137,236N/AN/AN/A
2DL/NW Combined72,99675,36476,40176,18073,4080.6-3.6
 Delta**45,16848,99376,40176,18073,408N/A-3.6
 Northwest**27,82826,371N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
3American70,13866,51365,36166,35761,457-12.4-7.4
4US Airways31,16229,93629,61530,65130,383-2.5-0.9
5Alaska9,6289,2728,9768,9449,208-4.43.0
 Total265,227258,132256,432263,129256,836-3.2-2.4

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

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

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

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

Note: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

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

Percent change compared to same month the previous year

Month2009201020112012
January-3.11.42.25.7
February-3.01.42.36.4
March0.11.22.37.1
April1.20.54.05.7
May1.20.64.15.3
June0.80.95.04.0
July0.91.55.33.5
August-0.22.05.72.5
September-0.12.75.92.5
October-0.43.06.21.9
November-0.13.25.91.4
December0.03.36.6 

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 Airlines Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month

 20082009201020112012Percent Change
2008-20122011-2012
January64,73662,69963,60064,97868,6846.15.7
February64,93562,95863,84565,32169,4737.06.4
March**62,93763,02763,78365,27369,88611.07.1
April***62,53763,27563,57166,11469,86111.45.7
May62,80063,53263,93366,55370,05311.55.3
June62,97663,50164,04667,26169,96911.14.0
July62,47463,02563,98167,37369,75511.73.5
August62,87062,77564,02267,68269,37910.42.5
September62,48662,40064,11367,87569,57311.32.5
October62,66862,40664,29768,26769,55111.01.9
November62,69962,63564,65768,45069,44110.81.4
December62,63162,61564,65268,887   
12-Month Average63,06262,90464,04267,003   
Jan-Nov Average63,10262,93063,98666,83269,60210.34.1

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.

** ATA Airlines ceased operations on April 3, 2008 and stopped reporting employment data effective in March.

***SkyBus stopped reporting employment data effective in April 2008 resulting from its bankruptcy filing.

Table 12: By Low-Cost Airline: Full-time Equivalent Employees*, November 2008-2012
(FTEs for November of each year. Ranked by November 2012 FTEs)

Rank 20082009201020112012Percent Change
2008-20122011-2012
1WN/FL Combined42,99942,56642,87945,60545,9536.90.8
 Southwest**35,66834,76035,00537,59245,953N/AN/A
 AirTran7,3317,8067,8748,013N/AN/AN/A
2JetBlue10,39710,84611,28512,10312,46519.93.0
3Frontier4,4424,3524,9724,6583,950-11.1-15.2
4Spirit2,2661,9062,1432,4322,88827.418.8
5Virgin America1,2611,4241,7662,0912,40790.915.1
6Allegiant1,3361,5421,6141,5621,77933.213.9
 Total62,69962,63564,65768,45069,44110.81.4

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 Airlines - Year-to-Year Change in Full-time Equivalent Employees* from the Previous Year
Percent change compared to same month the previous year

Month2009201020112012
January-6.0-8.50.40.1
February-4.9-9.80.90.8
March-4.9-10.11.80.2
April-7.4-9.32.1-1.5
May-7.7-8.01.6-2.2
June-7.2-7.71.5-2.5
July-6.9-7.51.9-3.3
August-6.8-7.22.1-2.3
September-5.7-6.62.0-4.3
October-10.10.52.1-6.0
November-7.5-1.00.6-5.4
December-8.9-0.31.5 

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 Airlines Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month

 20082009201020112012Percent Change
2008-20122011-2012
January61,10457,43652,53152,76452,796-13.60.1
February60,54757,58151,95252,40952,831-12.70.8
March60,23957,31051,52252,46852,581-12.70.2
April61,33356,77851,50252,59651,811-15.5-1.5
May61,35856,62652,07452,93051,746-15.7-2.2
June60,96756,56352,21052,98451,664-15.3-2.5
July60,69456,47752,22953,19751,463-15.2-3.3
August60,34656,23652,17953,28452,079-13.7-2.3
September59,41256,00952,32253,36151,082-14.0-4.3
October57,99252,14352,40253,49050,305-13.3-6.0
November57,46453,17652,65652,95450,100-12.8-5.4
December57,88452,73052,54953,328   
12-Month Average59,94555,75552,17752,980   
Jan-Nov Average60,13256,03052,14452,94951,678-14.1-2.4

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: By Regional Airline: Full-time Equivalent Employees*, November 2008-2012
(FTEs for November of each year. Ranked by November 2012 FTEs)

Rank 20082009201020112012Percent Change
2008-20122011-2012
1American Eagle9,2899,0429,45610,16210,61614.34.5
2SkyWest8,9678,6559,0639,4689,2833.5-2.0
3XE/EV Combined9,6278,9149,1719,2938,824-8.3-5.0
 ExpressJet#5,3475,3265,4345,4418,824N/AN/A
 Atlantic Southeast#4,2803,5883,7373,852N/AN/AN/A
49E/XJ Combined7,1875,6295,6195,6374,750-33.9-15.7
 Pinnacle**3,6073,3313,4473,7454,750N/AN/A
 Mesaba**3,5802,2982,1721,892N/AN/AN/A
5Horizon3,4563,2102,9202,8452,703-21.8-5.0
6Air Wisconsin2,7022,5062,5202,5802,565-5.1-0.6
7Republic***1,4232,8652,1041,9722,11548.67.3
8Shuttle America1,1961,2571,2981,5751,85755.317.9
9Mesa2,9362,5992,0641,8351,575-46.4-14.2
10Chautauqua****N/AN/AN/AN/A1,307N/AN/A
11Executive1,6221,7911,7751,8021,267-21.9-29.7
12Compass7678849501,0221,09943.37.5
13PSA9959679981,0391,0909.54.9
14GoJet3905605676611,051169.559.0
15Colgan##1,3001,2571,3911,1011N/AN/A
16Comair###5,2532,6422,6431,965N/AN/AN/A
17Lynx####359403122N/AN/AN/AN/A
 Total57,46453,17652,65652,95450,100-12.8-5.4

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

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

** 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.

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

## 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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