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Passenger Airline Employment

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Mid-August 2020 U.S. Passenger Airline Employment Down 4,000 FTEs from Mid-July

Release Number: 
BTS 71-20
Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The 23 U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 1.0 % fewer full-time equivalents (FTEs) in mid-August 2020 than in mid-July 2020:

  • Mid-August’s total number of FTEs (411,176) was down 4,000 FTEs from mid-July 2020 (415,154 FTEs) and down nearly 49,000 FTEs from mid-March 2020. August 2020 was the lowest FTE total for any August since 2015 (397,007 FTEs).
  • Mid-August 2020 FTEs were down more than 38,000 FTEs, down 8.5%, from mid-August 2019 (449,550 FTEs).  

Regulations require U.S. airlines to report employment numbers for employees who worked or received pay for any part of the pay period(s) ending nearest the 15th day of the month. U.S. airline employment reports are filed monthly with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See the tables that accompany this release on the BTS website for detailed data since 2015 (Tables 1-15) and industry summary data since 1990.

(Full-Time Equivalents)
August FTEs in thousands (000)
1990465.9
1991449.2
1992453.4
1993446.1
1994432.6
1995432.3
1996438.3
1997455.9
1998470.8
1999503.1
2000524.7
2001534.1
2002472.2
2003433.5
2004443.4
2005416.9
2006404.1
2007415.2
2008406.5
2009384.3
2010378.4
2011387.0
2012386.9
2013380.5
2014384.5
2015397.0
2016414.2
2017428.5
2018439.6
2019449.6
2020411.2
Notes: 

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

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

All 23 scheduled service passenger airlines (mid-August)

  • 411,116 FTEs
  • Down 8.5% (38,374 FTEs) from August 2019 (449,550 FTEs)
  • Down 0.7% (3,066 FTEs) from August 2016 (414,242 FTEs)

Four network airlines (mid-August)

  • 252,230 FTEs, 61.3% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Down 12.4% (35,717 FTEs) from August 2019 (287,947 FTEs)
  • Down 7.3% (19,882 FTEs) from August 2016 (272,112 FTEs)
  • Down 0.1% (306 FTEs) from mid-July 2020 (252,536 FTEs)
  • Up 2.3% (5,680 FTEs) from mid-June 2020 (246,550 FTEs)
  • Up 1.8% (4,581FTEs) from mid-May 2020 (247,649 FTEs)
  • Down 3.8% (10,070 FTEs) from mid-April (262,300 FTEs)
  • Down 13.4% (38,979 FTEs) from mid-March (291,209 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 (mid-August)

  • 97,121 FTEs, 23.6% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 1.1% (1,036 FTEs) from August 2019 (96,085 FTEs)
  • Up 15.9% (13,298 FTEs) from August 2016 (83,823 FTEs)
  • Down 0.9% (921 FTEs) from mid-July 2020 (98,042 FTEs)
  • Down 1.3% (1,262 FTEs) from mid-June 2020 (98,383 FTEs)
  • Down 1.5% (1,520 FTEs) from mid-May 2020 (98,641 FTEs)
  • Down 1.5% (1,500 FTEs) from mid-April 2020 (98,621 FTEs)
  • Down 1.4% (1,410 FTEs) from mid-March 2020 (98,531 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 (mid-August)

  • 53,415 FTEs, 13.0% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Down 6.9% (3,965 FTEs) from August 2019 (57,380 FTEs)
  • Up 4.8% (2,458 FTEs) from August 2016 (50,957 FTEs)
  • Down 5.1% (2,850 FTEs) from mid-July 2020 (56,265 FTEs)
  • Down 5.5% (3,102 FTEs) from mid-June 2020 (56,517 FTEs)
  • Down 5.2% (2,951 FTEs) from mid-May 2020 (56,366 FTEs)
  • Down 9.7% (5,727 FTEs) from mid-April 2020 (59,142 FTEs)
  • Down 12.4% (7,588 FTEs) from mid-March 2020 (61,003 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       100,928 FTEs
  • Low-Cost: Southwest      60,552 FTEs
  • Regional: SkyWest          17,187 FTEs

Four other airlines

Other carriers generally operate within specific niche markets. They are: Hawaiian Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, Silver Airlines and Eastern 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 Oct. 8.  Additional airline employment data and previous releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of September passenger airline employment data for Nov. 16.

Updated: Wednesday, October 21, 2020