Passenger Airline Employment

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May 2016 Passenger Airline Employment Data

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U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 3.7 percent more workers in May 2016 than in May 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today. May was the highest monthly total (410,338) since July 2008 and was the 31st consecutive month that U.S. scheduled passenger airline 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 May, 1990-2016

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

Month-to-month, the number of FTEs rose 0.6 percent from April to May (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 2.3 percent more FTEs in May 2016 than in May 2015 (Tables 7, 8, 9). Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines increased FTEs from May 2015. The fourth network airline, American Airlines, which has merged with US Airways, reported 2.2 percent more FTEs in May 2016 than American and US Airways reported separately in May 2015 (Table 9). 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 rose 0.5 percent from April to May (Table 1A).

The network airlines employed 3.5 percent more FTEs in May 2016 than in May 2012 (Tables 8, 9). 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 10.7 percent more FTEs in May 2016 than in May 2015 (Tables 10, 11, 12). Allegiant Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways increased FTEs from May 2015 (Table 12). Month-to-month, the number of low-cost airline FTEs rose 1.1 percent from April to May, rising for the 14th consecutive month (Table 1A).  The six low-cost airlines employed 17.2 percent more FTEs in May 2016 than in May 2012 (Tables 11, 12). 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 0.2 percent more FTEs in May 2016 than in May 2015 (Tables 13, 14, 15). Eight regional airlines –PSA Airlines, GoJet Airlines, Compass Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Endeavor Air, SkyWest Airlines, Republic Airlines and Horizon Air – increased FTEs from May 2015. The others reported decreases (Table 15). Month-to-month, the number of regional airline FTEs rose 0.4 percent from April to May (Table 1A). The 12 regional carriers reporting in May 2016 employed 2.6 percent fewer FTEs in May 2016 than the 15 carriers reporting in May 2012 (Tables 14, 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 four network airlines employed 65.9 percent of the 410,338 FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in May, the six low-cost carriers employed 20.0 percent and the 12 regional carriers employed 12.3 percent (Table 4). The three airlines with the most FTEs in May – American, Delta and United – employed 63.2 percent of the month’s total passenger airline FTEs (Tables 3, 6). From 2007 to 2016, the network share of FTEs rose from 64.8 percent to 65.9 percent, the low-cost share rose from 17.6 percent to 20.0 percent and the regional airline share dropped from 14.7 percent to 12.3 percent (Table 5).

Top Employers by Group: American employed the most FTEs (98,428) in May among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (51,888) among low-cost airlines, and Envoy Air employed the most FTEs (10,655) among regional airlines. The top three employers in the industry are network airlines (Table 6).    

Airline Mergers: Airlines involved in 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 July 2015 employment numbers. The airlines announced the merger in January 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 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 July 12. Additional airline employment data and previous press releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of June passenger airline employment data for Aug. 18.  

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**
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 20153.66.6-2.73.3
Oct 2014-Oct 20153.66.91.44.0
Nov 2014-Nov 20153.76.5-0.23.7
Dec 2014-Dec 20153.57.80.93.9
Jan 2015-Jan 20163.37.92.04.1
Feb 2015-Feb 20163.28.50.23.8
Mar 2015-Mar 20162.99.60.43.9
Apr 2015-Apr 20162.410.20.13.6
May 2015-May 20162.310.70.23.7

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**
May 2015-Jun 20150.40.6-0.20.3
Jun 2015-Jul 20150.00.5-1.9-0.1
Jul 2015-Aug 20150.00.7-0.20.1
Aug 2015-Sep 2015-0.10.8-0.20.1
Sep 2015-Oct 20150.11.22.50.7
Oct 2015-Nov 20150.20.90.10.3
Nov 2015-Dec 20150.00.30.00.0
Dec 2015-Jan 20160.00.80.00.2
Jan 2016-Feb 20160.31.2-0.10.4
Feb 2016-Mar 20160.50.80.30.5
Mar 2016-Apr 20160.31.2-0.40.4
Apr 2016-May20160.51.10.40.6

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-1.60.51.24.1
February-1.70.41.83.8
March-1.90.81.93.9
April-1.81.02.43.6
May-1.81.12.63.7
June-1.70.93.0 
July-1.81.32.7 
August-1.61.03.3 
September-0.91.13.3 
October-0.30.94.0 
November0.11.53.7 
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
January386,166380,042381,819386,528402,2084.24.1
February387,091380,414381,985388,976403,9174.33.8
March387,968380,540383,575390,817406,1134.73.9
April387,501380,487384,265393,439407,7635.23.6
May388,341381,372385,619395,621410,3385.73.7
June388,165381,672385,243396,973   
July388,475381,299386,243396,503   
August386,749380,486384,478397,007   
September383,604380,165384,501397,326   
October382,162381,178384,700399,928   
November380,949381,224386,912401,280   
December379,575380,809386,222401,440   
12-Month Average385,562380,807384,630395,487   
Jan-May Average387,413380,571383,453391,076406,0684.83.8

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*, May 2012-2016

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalAll Passenger Airlines**
2012261,42670,05551,884388,341
2013256,27469,81849,424381,372
2014257,57871,09550,633385,619
2015264,43874,16750,469395,621
2016270,55982,07050,554410,338
Percent of Total Passenger Airline Employees in 201665.9%20.0%12.3%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

(May of each year)

 NetworkLow-CostRegionalOther
200764.817.614.72.9
201168.117.113.71.1
201566.818.712.81.7
201665.920.012.31.7

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, May 2016

Ranked by Number of Full-Time Equivalent Employees*

RankAirlineTotal FTE EmployeesCarrier Group**Top 10 Airlines May 2015
1American98,428NetworkDelta
2United80,789NetworkUnited
3Delta80,183NetworkAmerican
4Southwest51,888Low-CostSouthwest
5JetBlue15,737Low-CostUS Airways
6Alaska11,159NetworkJetBlue
7Envoy10,655RegionalEnvoy
8SkyWest10,630RegionalAlaska
9ExpressJet6,864RegionalSkyWest
10Hawaiian5,314OtherExpressJet

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-2.10.40.83.3
February-1.90.11.43.2
March-2.20.61.72.9
April-2.00.42.42.4
May-2.00.52.72.3
June-1.80.33.1 
July-1.70.43.1 
August-1.50.13.7 
September-1.00.43.6 
October-0.60.33.6 
November-0.10.43.7 
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
February259,971254,955255,158258,796266,9872.73.2
March260,666254,871256,342260,794268,3753.02.9
April260,876255,674256,732262,905269,1693.22.4
May261,426256,274257,578264,438270,5593.52.3
June261,539256,791257,491265,486   
July260,982256,474257,541265,551   
August259,617255,800256,095265,567   
September257,875255,194256,133265,315   
October257,270255,741256,409265,704   
November256,141255,914256,823266,251   
December254,065255,155257,251266,136   
12-Month Average259,181255,602256,589263,714   
Jan-May Average260,538255,230256,266260,912268,2673.02.8

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*, May 2012-2016

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

RankAirline20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
1AA/US Combined95,408 89,859 91,533 96,313 98,428 3.22.2
 American**64,98058,87859,74763,22498,428N/AN/A
 US Airways**30,42830,98131,78633,089N/AN/AN/A
2United82,48882,58880,50078,66080,789-2.12.7
3Delta74,36174,28575,72078,72080,1837.81.9
4Alaska9,1699,5429,82510,74511,15921.73.9
 Total261,426 256,274 257,578 264,438 270,559 3.52.3

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
January0.80.34.67.9
February0.20.74.68.5
March0.00.83.99.6
April-0.31.54.210.2
May-0.31.84.310.7
June-0.62.24.9 
July-0.42.55.2 
August-0.93.05.8 
September-0.22.96.6 
October-0.13.86.9 
November-0.15.26.5 
December-0.64.47.8 

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 11: Low-Cost Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month 2012-2016

 20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
January68,92669,46569,69372,90978,63814.17.9
February69,47669,63070,13573,35179,57814.58.5
March69,88769,85470,38473,16380,20214.89.6
April69,86269,67770,75173,69581,18016.210.2
May70,05569,81871,09574,16782,07017.210.7
June69,97069,57471,07474,592   
July69,75669,51071,27274,999   
August69,94069,28671,38775,549   
September69,57569,42671,42876,176   
October69,55269,49672,11077,063   
November69,44269,40273,01477,783   
December69,78169,36572,39978,035   
12-Month Average69,68569,54271,22975,124   
Jan-May Average69,64169,68970,41273,45780,33415.49.4

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*, May 2012-2016

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

Rank 20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
1Allegiant1,7331,9062,1482,5203,20885.127.3
2Spirit2,7253,2563,6684,2275,27793.724.8
3Frontier4,2443,7243,6702,7323,057-28.011.9
4Virgin America2,4432,4252,5102,6002,90318.811.7
5Southwest46,17645,49845,34247,49651,88812.49.2
6JetBlue12,73413,00913,75714,59215,73723.67.8
 Total70,055 69,818 71,095 74,167 82,070 17.210.7

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 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-5.00.5-0.30.2
March-4.60.9-0.50.4
April-4.82.3-0.40.1
May-4.72.4-0.30.2
June-4.41.90.1 
July-6.33.5-3.3 
August-5.12.5-2.7 
September-3.02.1-2.7 
October-0.5-0.21.4 
November-0.51.5-0.2 
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
January52,80050,64050,42549,47750,482-4.42.0
February52,83550,19150,45850,31850,416-4.60.2
March52,58450,18150,62350,36150,554-3.90.4
April51,85849,38750,52650,32650,374-2.90.1
May51,88449,42450,63350,46950,554-2.60.2
June51,66649,41550,33650,373   
July52,71549,38751,10749,403   
August52,08249,43450,67149,320   
September51,08549,54650,57449,231   
October50,13149,89049,78950,486   
November50,10249,85150,60550,522   
December50,42550,19150,08350,521   
12-Month Average51,68149,79550,48650,067   
Jan-May Average52,39249,96550,53350,19050,476-3.70.6

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*, May 2012-2016

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

Rank 20122013201420152016Percent Change
2012-20162015-2016
1Envoy9,81511,10810,81310,87510,6558.6-2.0
2SkyWest9,3839,4479,8359,93410,63013.37.0
3ExpressJet9,4338,8739,3228,0676,864-27.2-14.9
4Endeavor4,8284,3683,8383,2473,475-28.07.0
5Republic1,9032,3142,8933,2103,39478.35.7
6Horizon2,7652,6432,8183,0913,25417.75.3
7Mesa1,7491,6471,9292,5112,90065.815.5
8PSA1,0721,0701,3892,1772,585141.118.7
9S5/RP Combined1,908 3,264 2,946 2,781 1,911 N/A-31.3
 Shuttle America#1,9082,0602,0412,7811,911N/AN/A
 Chautauqua#NA1,204905N/AN/AN/AN/A
10Air Wisconsin2,6272,4972,5431,8931,779-32.3-6.0
11Compass1,0791,1021,1891,5241,76363.415.7
12GoJet8761,0911,1181,1591,34453.416.0
13Executive##1,588N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
14Colgan###1,281N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
15Comair####1,577N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
 Total51,884 49,424 50,633 50,469 50,554 -2.60.2

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