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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

September Airline Industry Employment Dips Slightly from August, Remains 3.3% Below Pre-Pandemic September 2019

Tuesday, November 9, 2021


Major passenger airlines add 2,448 jobs in September; major cargo carriers drop 3,028

U.S. airlines employed 718,111 workers in September 2021, which is 814 (0.1%) fewer workers than in August 2021 and 24,289 (3.3%) fewer than in pre-pandemic September 2019.



The September industry-wide numbers include 615,352 full-time and 103,459 part-time workers, an increase from August of 753 full-time workers and a decrease of 1,567 part-time workers. As of September, the U.S. airline industry is operating with 34,571 fewer employees (4.6%) than at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total employment (full-time + part-time) by U.S. airlines (passenger + cargo carriers):

September 2019: 743,100
February 2020 (COVID-19 onset): 753,382
September 2020: 701,054
August 2021: 719,625 (revised)
September 2021: 718,811

Major passenger airlines added 2,448 employees in September, fewer than the 4,320 added in August. Delta Air Lines (2,096) and United Airlines (1,101) added the most employees while American Airlines (-1,798) and Alaska Airlines (-831) dropped the most employees. As of September, the largest passenger airlines are operating with 56,171 fewer employees (12.3%) than at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major U.S. Passenger Airline Employment (full-time + part-time)

September 2019: 451,181
February 2020 (COVID-19 onset): 457,685
September 2020: 402,020
August 2021: 399,066
September 2021: 401,514

Major carriers: Over $1 billion annual operating revenue

Major cargo airline employment in September 2021 fell by 3,028 employees from August. Of these carriers, Federal Express (-2,882) dropped the most employees. Major cargo airlines are operating with 16,319 more employees (6.3%) than at the onset of the pandemic.

Major U.S. Cargo Airline Employment (full-time + part-time)

September 2019: 254,622
February 2020 (COVID-19 onset): 259,063
September 2020: 266,800
August 2021: 278,410
September 2021: 275,382

Major carriers: Over $1 billion annual operating revenue

Regulations require airlines to report employment numbers to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for employees who worked or received pay for any part of the pay period(s) ending nearest the 15th day of the month. Numbers include all paid employees but do not include employees not being paid.

Additional individual airline numbers are available on the BTS airline employment web page. The web page provides full-time and part-time employment numbers by carrier by month from 1990 through September 2021.

Reports are from all U.S. airlines including scheduled passenger, charter and cargo that meet the reporting standard. 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 next web update for full-time and part-time employment is scheduled for December 7. The BTS press release on full-time equivalent employment for scheduled passenger airlines through August, with historic comparisons and summary tables will be issued November 18.