Passenger Airline Employment

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January 2016 Passenger Airline Employment Data

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U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 4.1 percent more workers in January 2016 than in January 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today. January was the highest monthly total (402,204) since August 2008 and was the 26th 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 January, 1990-2016

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Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-Time Equivalent Employees, Month of January, 1990-2016

Month-to-month, the number of FTEs rose 0.2 percent from December to January (Table 1A). Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines. Historical employment data can be found on the BTS web site.

The four network airlines that collectively employ two-thirds of the scheduled passenger airline FTEs reported 3.3 percent more FTEs in January 2016 than in January 2015 (Table 7). Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines increased FTEs from January 2015 (Table 9). American Airlines, which has merged with US Airways, reported 4.8 percent more FTEs in January 2016 than American and US Airways reported separately in January 2015. 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 December to January (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 7.9 percent more FTEs in January 2016 than in January 2015 (Table 10). Allegiant Airlines, Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Virgin America and Southwest Airlines reported increases while Frontier Airlines reduced FTEs (Table 12). Month-to-month, the number of low-cost airline FTEs rose 0.8 percent from December to January, rising for the 10th 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 2.0 percent more FTEs in January 2016 than in January 2015 (Table 13). Six regional airlines – PSA Airlines, Compass Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Horizon Air, GoJet Airlines and SkyWest Airlines – reported increased employment levels. The others reported decreases (Table 15). Month-to-month, the number of regional airline FTEs was virtually unchanged from December to January (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 66.2 percent of the 402,204 FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in January, the six low-cost carriers employed 19.6 percent and the 12 regional carriers employed 12.6 percent (Table 4). The three airlines with the most FTEs in January – American, Delta and United– employed 63.5 percent of the month’s total passenger airline FTEs (Tables 3, 6). From 2007 to 2016, the network share of FTEs rose from 65.0 percent to 66.2 percent, the low-cost share rose from 17.6 percent to 19.6 percent and the regional airline share dropped from 14.6 percent to 12.6 percent (Table 5).

Top Employers by Group: American employed the most FTEs (97,509) in January among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (49,981) among low-cost airlines, and Envoy employed the most FTEs (10,657) 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 3.3 percent more FTEs in January 2016 than in January 2015 and 2.5 percent more FTEs in January 2016 than in January 2012 (Tables 8, 9).

Low-Cost Airlines

The six low-cost airlines employed 7.9 percent more FTEs in January 2016 than in January 2015 and 14.1 percent more FTEs in January 2016 than in January 2012 (Tables 11, 12).

Regional Airlines

Regional airlines employed 2.0 percent more FTEs in January 2016 than in January 2015.  The 12 regional carriers reporting in January 2016 employed 4.4 percent fewer FTEs in January 2016 than the 15 carriers reporting in January 2012 (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 March 10. Additional airline employment data and previous press releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of January passenger airline employment data for April 21. 

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**
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 20153.57.70.93.7
Jan 2015-Jan 20163.37.92.04.1

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. 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**
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
Dec 2015-Jan 20160.00.80.00.2

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. 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

Month2013201420152016
January-2.30.51.24.1
February-2.50.41.8 
March-2.70.81.9 
April-2.41.02.6 
May-2.51.12.6 
June-2.40.93.0 
July-2.61.32.7 
August-2.21.03.3 
September-1.61.13.3 
October-0.80.93.7 
November-0.11.53.4 
December0.31.43.9 

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 2012-2016

Month20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
January386,166380,042381,819386,535402,204 4.24.1
February389,901380,375381,985388,983   
March390,761380,536383,575390,841   
April390,243380,957384,265393,446   
May390,957381,423385,619395,626   
June390,923381,672385,243396,973   
July391,286381,299386,243396,503   
August389,000380,564384,478397,007   
September386,372380,165384,501397,226   
October384,310381,178384,700398,946   
November381,639381,224386,912400,309   
December379,576380,809386,222401,440   
12-Month Average387,595380,854384,630395,320   

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*, January 2012-2016

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalAll Passenger Airlines**
2012259,74968,92652,800386,166
2013254,37769,46550,640380,042
2014255,51869,69350,425381,819
2015257,62772,90949,484386,535
2016266,24578,63850,482402,204
Percent of Total Passenger Airline Employees in 201666.2%19.6%12.6%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 2007-2016

(January of each year)

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalOther
200765.017.614.62.8
201167.917.113.91.1
201566.718.912.81.7
201666.219.612.61.7

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, January 2016

Ranked by Number of Full-Time Equivalent Employees*

RankAirlineTotal FTE EmployeesCarrier Group**Top 10 Airlines January 2015
1American97,509NetworkUnited
2Delta78,713NetworkDelta
3United79,067NetworkAmerican
4Southwest49,981Low-CostSouthwest
5JetBlue15,255Low-CostUS Airways
6Alaska10,956NetworkJetBlue
7Envoy10,657RegionalEnvoy
8SkyWest10,438RegionalAlaska
9ExpressJet7,325RegionalSkyWest
10Spirit4,808Low-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

 2013201420152016
January-3.10.40.83.3
February-3.00.11.4 
March-3.30.61.7 
April-3.00.42.4 
May-3.00.52.7 
June-2.80.33.1 
July-2.80.43.1 
August-2.50.13.7 
September-2.10.43.6 
October-1.40.33.6 
November-0.40.43.7 
December0.40.83.5 

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 2012-2016

Month20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
January259,749254,377255,518257,627266,2452.53.3
February262,788254,955255,158258,796   
March263,464254,870256,342260,794   
April263,666255,673256,732262,905   
May264,183256,272257,578264,438   
June264,301256,791257,491265,486   
July263,793256,474257,541265,551   
August262,428255,800256,095265,567   
September260,651255,194256,133265,315   
October259,245255,741256,409265,704   
November256,836255,914256,823266,251   
December254,065255,155257,251266,136   
12-Month Average261,498255,601256,589263,714   

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*, January 2012-2016

(FTEs for January of each year. Ranked by January 2016 FTEs)

RankAirline20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
1AA/US Combined96,25889,74491,26093,01397,5091.34.8
 American**65,86859,42659,68660,99997,509N/AN/A
 US Airways**30,39030,31831,57432,014N/AN/AN/A
2Delta73,17473,17473,37276,01178,7137.63.6
3United81,35282,20981,36878,40179,067-2.80.8
4Alaska8,9659,2509,51810,20210,95622.27.4
 Total259,749254,377255,518257,627266,2452.53.3

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.

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

Month2013201420152016
January1.10.34.67.9
February0.20.74.6 
March-0.10.84.0 
April-0.31.54.2 
May-0.31.84.3 
June-0.65.04.9 
July-0.42.55.2 
August0.03.05.8 
September-0.22.96.5 
October-0.13.86.9 
November-0.15.26.5 
December-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 2012-2016

 20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
January68,92669,46469,69372,90978,638 14.17.9
February69,47369,59570,13573,351   
March69,88669,85370,38473,180   
April69,86169,67570,75173,695   
May70,05369,81771,09574,167   
June69,96969,57471,07474,592   
July69,75669,51071,27274,999   
August69,38069,36471,38775,549   
September69,57569,42671,42876,076   
October69,55169,49672,11077,063   
November69,44169,40273,01477,783   
December69,78169,36572,39978,035   
12-Month Average69,63869,54571,22975,117   

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*, January 2012-2016

(FTEs for January of each year. Ranked by January 2016 FTEs)

Rank 20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
1WN/FL Combined45,69245,83544,98346,58849,9819.47.3
 Southwest**38,20345,83544,98346,58849,981N/A7.3
 AirTran7,489N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
2JetBlue12,35012,59313,11913,75115,25523.510.9
3Spirit2,5362,9923,6044,0334,80889.619.2
4Frontier4,5353,8663,4123,6122,962-34.7-18.0
5Allegiant1,6071,8082,0802,3972,89480.120.7
6Virgin America2,2062,3712,4952,5282,73824.18.3
 Total68,92669,46569,69372,90978,63814.17.9

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

Month2013201420152016
January-4.1-0.4-1.92.0
February-5.00.5-0.3 
March-4.60.9-0.5 
April-3.82.3-0.4 
May-4.52.4-0.3 
June-4.41.90.1 
July-6.33.5-3.3 
August-5.12.5-2.7 
September-3.01.9-2.7 
October-0.8-0.2-0.6 
November-0.51.5-2.1 
December-0.5-0.20.9 

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 2012-2016

 20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
January52,80050,64050,42549,48450,482-4.42.0
February52,83150,18850,45850,325   
March52,58150,18050,62350,368   
April51,81149,86150,52650,333   
May51,74649,47850,63350,474   
June51,66449,41550,33650,373   
July52,71549,38751,10749,403   
August52,08249,43450,67149,320   
September51,08549,54650,57449,231   
October50,30549,89049,78949,504   
November50,10049,85150,60549,551   
December50,42650,19150,08350,521   
12-Month Average51,67949,83850,48649,907   

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*, January 2012-2016

(FTEs for January of each year. Ranked by January 2016 FTEs)

Rank 20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
1Envoy10,06511,32411,01710,69310,6575.9-0.3
2SkyWest9,4469,4009,8169,70010,43810.57.6
3ExpressJet9,3878,8329,1788,5257,325-22.0-14.1
4Endeavor5,1854,9023,9113,3833,321-35.9-1.8
5Horizon2,8132,1602,7472,8813,27716.513.7
6Republic1,9662,7062,7953,1413,13359.4-0.3
7Mesa1,8152,0351,9772,2722,82855.824.5
8PSA1,0591,0971,1961,7992,496135.738.7
9S5/RP Combined1,5632,5612,9482,7702,27745.7-17.8
 Shuttle America#1,5631,5421,8172,7632,27745.7-17.6
 Chautauqua#N/A1,0191,1317N/AN/AN/A
10Air Wisconsin2,5902,5352,5121,9141,840-29.0-3.9
11Compass1,0431,0781,1661,2941,65358.527.7
12GoJet7611,2491,1621,1121,23762.511.2
13Executive##1,695761N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
14Colgan###1,680N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
15Comair####1,732N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
 Total52,80050,64050,42549,48450,482-4.42.0

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

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

# 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