Passenger Airline Employment

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May 2018 U.S. Passenger Airline Employment Data

Release Number: 
BTS 36-18

Date: Thursday, July 19, 2018

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U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 3.0 percent more workers in May 2018 than in May 2017:

  • May’s 438,215 full-time equivalents (FTE) was the highest monthly employment total since November 2004 (439,776 FTEs).
  • May was the 55th consecutive month that U.S. scheduled passenger airline FTEs exceeded the same month of the previous year.

May FTEs in thousands (000)
May FTEs in thousands (000)
1990457.8
1991443.6
1992450.2
1993443.3
1994433.2
1995425.3
1996441.7
1997449.9
1998468.7
1999493.8
2000517.5
2001542.1
2002468.5
2003444.4
2004438.8
2005423.7
2006403.7
2007411.9
2008415.5
2009387.4
2010377.5
2011385.3
2012388.5
2013381.4
2014385.6
2015395.6
2016410.3
2017425.7
2018438.2
Notes: 

FTE calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

All 21 scheduled service passenger airlines

  • 438,215 FTEs
  • Up 3.0 percent (12,559 FTEs) over May 2017 (425,656 FTEs)
  • Up 13.6 percent (52,596 FTEs) over May 2014 (385,619 FTEs)

Four network airlines

  • 285,804 FTEs, 65.2 percent of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 3.1 percent (8,669 FTEs) over May 2017 (277,135 FTEs)
  • Up 11.0 percent (28,226 FTEs) over May 2014 (257,578 FTEs)

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. Note that beginning with January 2018 data, Virgin America’s numbers are included with Alaska Airlines in the network category.

Five low-cost airlines

  • 90,927 FTEs, 20.7 percent of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 2.3 percent (2,068 FTEs) over May 2017 (88,859 FTEs)
  • Up 27.9 percent (19,832 FTEs) over May 2014 (71,095 FTEs)  

Low-cost airlines operate under a low-cost business model, with infrastructure and aircraft operating costs below the overall industry average.

10 regional airlines

  • 53,662 FTEs, 12.2 percent of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 3.6 percent (1,859 FTEs) over May 2017 (51,803 FTEs)
  • Up 6.0 percent (3,029 FTEs) over May 2014 (50,633 FTEs)

Regional carriers typically provide service from small cities, using primarily regional jets to support the network carriers’ hub and spoke systems.

Top Employers by Group

  • Network: American    102,528 FTEs
  • Low-Cost: Southwest   57,723 FTEs
  • Regional: SkyWest       13,493 FTEs

Two other airlines

Other carriers generally operate within specific niche markets. They are: Hawaiian Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.

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.

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial air carriers as of July 10. Additional airline employment data and previous releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of June passenger airline employment data for Aug. 20.

Updated: Thursday, July 19, 2018