U.S. Airline Employment Trends

April 2019 U.S. Passenger Airline Employment Data

The 21 U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 2.3% more workers in April 2019 than in April 2018:

  • April’s 446,323 full-time equivalents (FTE) was the highest employment total for any month since April 2003 (449,288 FTEs).  
  • April was the 66th consecutive month that U.S. scheduled passenger airline FTEs exceeded the same month of the previous year.

Employees at U.S. Scheduled Passenger Airlines Month of April, 1990-2019 April FTEs in thousands (000)Notes: 

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


Bureau of Transportation Statistics

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.

All 21 scheduled service passenger airlines

  • 446,323 FTEs
  • Up 2.3% (10,069 FTEs) over April 2018 (436,254 FTEs)
  • Up 13.4% (52,884 FTEs) over April 2015 (393,439 FTEs)

Four network airlines

  • 287,095 FTEs, 64.3% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 1.0% (2,709 FTEs) over April 2018 (284,386 FTEs)
  • Up 9.2% (24,190 FTEs) over April 2015 (262,905 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

  • 94,718 FTEs, 21.2% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 4.8% (4,346 FTEs) over April 2018 (90,372 FTEs)
  • Up 28.5% (21,023 FTEs) over April 2015 (73,695 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

  • 56,372 FTEs, 12.6% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 5.2% (2,807 FTEs) over April 2018 (53,565 FTEs)
  • Up 12.0% (6,046 FTEs) over April 2015 (50,326 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    101,452 FTEs
  • Low-Cost: Southwest   59,602 FTEs
  • Regional: SkyWest       14,839 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.

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