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Passenger Airline Employment

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Mid-July 2020 U.S. Passenger Airline Employment Up 4,600 FTEs from Mid-June

Release Number: 
BTS 64-20
Date: Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The 23 U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 1.1 % more full-time equivalents (FTEs) in mid-July 2020 than in mid-June 2020:

  • Mid-July’s total number of FTEs (415,154) was up 4,600 FTEs from mid-June 2020 (410,557 FTEs) and down nearly 45,000 FTEs from mid-March 2020. July 2020 was the lowest FTE total for any July since 2016 (413,746 FTEs).
  • Mid-July 2020 FTEs were down more than 34,000 FTEs, down 7.7%, from mid-July 2019 (449,907 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)
July FTEs in thousands (000)
1990465.8
1991450.7
1992453.4
1993446.4
1994439.2
1995431.0
1996437.2
1997455.5
1998474.6
1999501.7
2000524.8
2001537.2
2002473.4
2003434.4
2004444.4
2005428.1
2006403.0
2007414.3
2008411.1
2009386.8
2010378.1
2011387.5
2012388.6
2013381.3
2014386.2
2015396.5
2016413.7
2017428.2
2018443.5
2019449.9
2020415.2
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-July)

  • 415,154 FTEs
  • Down 7.7% (34,753 FTEs) from July 2019 (449,907 FTEs)
  • Up 0.3% (1,408 FTEs) from July 2016 (413,746 FTEs)

Four network airlines (mid-July)

  • 252,536 FTEs, 60.8% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Down 12.6% (36,402 FTEs) from July 2019 (288,938 FTEs)
  • Down 7.1% (19,427 FTEs) from July 2016 (271,963 FTEs)
  • Up 2.4% (5,986 FTEs) from mid-June 2020 (246,550 FTEs)
  • Up 2.0% (4,887 FTEs) from mid-May 2020 (247,649 FTEs)
  • Down 3.7% (9,764 FTEs) from mid-April 2020 (262,300 FTEs)
  • Down 13.3% (38,673 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-July)

  • 98,042 FTEs, 23.6% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 2.4% (2,266 FTEs) from July 2019 (95,776 FTEs)
  • Up 17.4% (14,561 FTEs) from July 2016 (83,481 FTEs)
  • Down 0.3% (341 FTEs) from mid-June 2020 (98,383 FTEs)
  • Down 0.6% (599 FTEs) from mid-May 2020 (98,641 FTEs)
  • Down 0.6% (579 FTEs) from mid-April 2020 (98,621 FTEs)
  • Down 0.5% (489 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-July)

  • 56,265 FTEs, 13.6% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Down 1.3% (759 FTEs) from July 2019 (57,024 FTEs)
  • Up 10.3% (5,244 FTEs) from July 2016 (51,021 FTEs)
  • Down 0.4% (252 FTEs) from mid-June 2020 (56,517 FTEs)
  • Down 0.2% (101 FTEs) from mid-May 2020 (56,366 FTEs)
  • Down 4.9% (2,877 FTEs) from mid-April 2020 (59,142 FTEs)
  • Down 7.8% (4,738 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        101,410 FTEs
  • Low-Cost: Southwest       60,885 FTEs
  • Regional: SkyWest           17,258 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 Sept. 9.  Additional airline employment data and previous releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of August passenger airline employment data for Oct. 21.

Updated: Tuesday, September 15, 2020