U.S. Airline Employment Trends

February 2018 U.S. Passenger Airline Employment Data

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 3.0 percent more workers in February 2018 than in February 2017. February was the highest monthly full-time equivalent (FTE) employment total (432,232 FTEs) since December 2004 (436,909 FTEs) and was the 52nd consecutive month that U.S. scheduled passenger airline FTEs exceeded the same month of the previous year.

Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-Time Equivalent Employees, Month of February, 1990-2018

February FTEs in thousands (000)

Graph - Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-Time Equivalent Employees, Month of February, 1990-2018

Notes: 

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

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Month-to-month, the number of FTEs rose 0.6 percent from January to February (Table 1A).  The scheduled passenger airlines employed 13.2 percent more FTEs in February 2018 than in February 2014, an increase of 50,247 FTEs (Table 3). Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines. Historical employment data can be found on the BTS web site.

The four network airlines that collectively employ 65.2 percent of the scheduled passenger airline FTEs reported 3.1 percent more FTEs in February 2018 than in February 2017, an increase of 8,376 FTEs (Tables 7, 8, 9). Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines increased FTEs from February 2017. Month-to-month, the number of network airline FTEs rose 0.2 percent from January to February (Table 1A). The network airlines employed 10.4 percent more FTEs in February 2018 than in February 2014, an increase of 26,583 FTEs (Tables 8, 9). 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.

The six low-cost carriers reported 2.4 percent more FTEs in February 2018 than in February 2017, an increase of 2,066 FTEs (Tables 10, 11, 12). Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines increased FTEs from February 2017 (Tables 12). Month-to-month, the number of low-cost airline FTEs rose 0.7 percent from January to February (Table 1A). The six low-cost airlines employed 27.0 percent more FTEs in February 2018 than in February 2014, an increase of 18,961 FTEs (Tables 11, 12). Low-cost airlines operate under a low-cost business model, with infrastructure and aircraft operating costs below the overall industry average.

The 10 regional carriers reported 3.6 percent more FTEs in February 2018 than the 11 carriers that reported in February 2017, an increase of 1,876 FTEs (Tables 13, 14, 15). Seven regional airlines – PSA Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, Envoy Air, Endeavor Air, Horizon Air, Mesa Airlines and Republic Airlines increased FTEs from February 2017.  ExpressJet Airlines, Compass Airlines and GoJet Airlines reported a decrease (Table 15). Month-to-month, the number of regional airline FTEs rose 2.2 percent from January to February (Table 1A). The 10 regional carriers reporting in February 2018 employed 6.0 percent more FTEs in February 2018 than the 15 carriers reporting in February 2014, an increase of 3,032 FTEs (Tables 14, 15). Regional carriers typically provide service from small cities, using primarily regional jets to support the network carriers’ hub and spoke systems.

Carrier Groups: The four network airlines employed 65.2 percent of the 432,232 FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in February, the six low-cost carriers employed 20.6 percent and the 11 regional carriers employed 12.4 percent (Table 4). In comparison, in February 2007, network airlines employed 64.6 percent, six low-cost carriers employed 18 percent and regional carriers employed 15.4 percent (Table 5). 

Top Employers by Group: American employed the most FTEs (100,902) in February among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (56,835) among low-cost airlines, and SkyWest employed the most FTEs (13,578) among regional airlines. The three airlines with the most FTEs in February – American, United and Delta– employed 61.4 percent of the month’s total passenger airline FTEs (Tables 3, 6).

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.

The “Other Carrier” category generally reflects those airlines that operate within specific niche markets such as the Hawaiian Islands served by Hawaiian Airlines.                             

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial air carriers as of April 12.  Additional airline employment data and previous press releases can be found on the BTS website.  BTS has scheduled release of March passenger airline employment data for May 17.

Table 1: Yearly Change in Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Airline Group, February 2018

Most recent 13 months - percent change from same month of the previous year

Network AirlinesLow-Cost AirlinesRegional AirlinesOther AirlinesAll Passenger Airlines **
Feb 2016 - Feb 2017 2.4 9.4 2.4 11.8 3.9
Mar 2016 - Mar 2017 2.7 9.1 2.0 11.7 4.0
Apr 2016 - Apr 2017 2.6 8.8 2.1 10.7 3.9
May 2016 - May 2017 2.4 8.3 2.5 9.8 3.7
Jun 2016 - Jun 2017 2.5 8.0 2.6 9.4 3.8
Jul 2016 - Jul 2017 2.3 7.3 2.7 8.5 3.5
Aug 2016 - Aug 2017 2.2 7.0 3.3 8.4 3.4
Sep 2016 - Sep 2017 2.1 6.8 4.3 6.7 3.4
Oct 2016 - Oct 2017 2.1 6.7 5.2 1.8 3.4
Nov 2016 - Nov 2017 2.0 6.5 5.4 0.9 3.3
Dec 2016 - Dec 2017 2.0 6.5 6.0 1.5 3.4
Jan 2017 - Jan 2018 3.2 2.6 1.8 1.8 2.9
Feb 2017 - Feb 2018 3.1 2.4 3.6 2.0 3.0

Export Table DataNotes: See Table 2 for all passenger airlines, Table 7 for Network, Table 10 for Low-Cost and Table 13 for Regional. * Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. ** Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers. Other Carriers generally operate within specific niche markets. They are: Hawaiian Airlines and Sun Country Airlines. Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 1A: Monthly Change in Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Airline Group, February 2018

Percent change in FTEs from the previous month

NetworkLow-costRegionalOtherAll
Feb 2017 - Mar 2017 0.8 0.6 -0.3 0.6 0.6
Mar 2017 - Apr 2017 0.3 0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.3
Apr 2017 - May 2017 0.3 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.5
May 2017 - Jun 2017 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.4 0.5
Jun 2017 - Jul 2017 0.0 0.2 0.5 0.1 0.1
Jul 2017 - Aug 2017 -0.1 0.2 0.4 0.8 0.1
Aug 2017 - Sep 2017 -0.1 0.4 0.5 -0.1 0.1
Sep 2017 - Oct 2017 0.3 0.8 0.7 -3.8 0.4
Oct 2017 - Nov 2017 -0.2 0.3 0.2 0.5 -0.1
Nov 2017 - Dec 2017 0.1 0.0 0.5 1.1 0.2
Dec 2017 - Jan 2018 1.1 -2.7 -2.4 0.8 -0.2
Jan 2018 - Feb 2018 0.2 0.7 2.2 0.7 0.6

Export Table DataNotes: * Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. ** Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers. Other Carriers generally operate within specific niche markets. They are: Hawaiian Airlines and Sun Country Airlines. See Table 2 for all passenger airlines, Table 7 for Network, Table 10 for Low-Cost and Table 13 for Regional. Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 2: Change from Previous Year in Scheduled Passenger Airline* Full-time Equivalent Employees**, February 2018

Percent change compared to same month the previous year

Month2015201620172018
January 1.2 4.1 3.9 2.9
February 1.8 3.8 3.9 3.0
March 1.9 3.9 4.0

April 2.4 3.6 3.9

May 2.6 3.7 3.7

June 3.0 3.9 3.8

July 2.7 4.3 3.5

August 3.3 4.3 3.4

September 3.3 4.3 3.4

October 4.0 4.0 3.4

November 3.7 3.7 3.3

December 3.9 3.7 3.4

Export Table DataNotes: *Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers.  **Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 3: Scheduled Passenger Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month 2014 - 2018, February 2018

(FTEs in thousands)

201420152016201720182014 - 20182017 - 2018
January 381,819 386,528 402,270 417,833 429,842 12.6 2.9
February 381,985 388,976 403,917 419,762 432,232 13.2 3.0
March 383,575 390,817 405,983 422,278

April 384,265 393,439 407,763 423,747

May 385,619 395,621 410,338 425,656

June 385,243 396,973 412,333 427,818

July 386,243 396,503 413,746 428,209

August 384,478 397,007 414,242 428,455

September 384,501 397,326 414,558 428,673

October 384,700 399,928 415,979 430,232

November 386,912 401,280 416,046 429,946

December 386,222 401,440 416,337 430,607

Jan - Feb Average 381,902 387,752 403,094 418,798 431,037 12.9 2.9
12-Month Average 384,630 395,487 411,126 426,101

Export Table DataNotes:  *Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers.  **Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employees Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 4: Airline Group Full-time Equivalent Employees*, February 2014 - 2018

Network AirlinesLow-Cost AirlinesRegional AirlinesOther AirlinesAll Passenger Airlines**
2014 255,158 70,135 50,458 6,234 381,985
2015 258,796 73,351 50,318 6,511 388,976
2016 266,987 79,578 50,416 6,936 403,917
2017 273,365 87,030 51,614 7,753 419,762
2018 281,741 89,096 53,490 7,905 432,232
Percent of Total Passenger Airline Employees in 2018 65.2 20.6 12.4 1.8 100.0

Export Table DataNotes: * Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. ** Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers. Table 5: Carrier Group Percent of Total Scheduled Passenger Airline FTEs, February 2018

(February of each year)

YearNetwork AirlinesLow-cost AirlinesRegional AirlinesOther Airlines
2007 64.6 18.0 15.4 2.1
2013 67.0 18.3 13.2 1.5
2017 65.1 20.7 12.3 1.8
2018 65.2 20.6 12.4 1.8

Export Table DataNotes: * Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. ** Includes network, low-cost, regional and other carriers. Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 6: Top 10 Airlines, February 2018

Ranked by Number of Full-Time Equivalent Employees*

RankAirlineTotal FTE EmployeesCarrier GroupTop 10 Airlines February 2017
1 American 100,902 Network American
2 United 82,516 Network United
3 Delta 81,772 Network Delta
4 Southwest 56,835 Low-cost Southwest
5 JetBlue 17,979 Low-cost JetBlue
6 Alaska 16,551 Network Alaska
7 SkyWest 13,578 Regional Envoy
8 Envoy 12,589 Regional SkyWest
9 Spirit 6,767 Low-cost ExpressJet
10 Hawaiian 6,180 Other Spirit

Export Table DataNotes: * Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. ** See Table 9 for Network, Table 12 for Low-Cost and Table 15 for Regional. Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 7: Network Airline Year-to-Year Change in Full-time Equivalent Employees* from the Previous Year, February 2018

Percent change compared to same month of the previous year

2015201620172018
January 0.8 3.3 2.3 3.2
February 1.4 3.2 2.4 3.1
March 1.7 2.9 2.7

April 2.4 2.4 2.6

May 2.7 2.3 2.4

June 3.1 2.3 2.5

July 3.1 2.4 2.3

August 3.7 2.5 2.2

September 3.6 2.6 2.1

October 3.6 2.7 2.1

November 3.7 2.3 2.0

December 3.5 2.4 2.0

Export Table DataNotes: 

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 8: Network Airlines Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month 2014 - 2018, February 2018

20142015201620172018Percent Change

2014 - 2018 2017 - 2018
January 255,518 257,627 266,245 272,407 281,138 10.0 3.2
February 255,158 258,796 266,987 273,365 281,741 10.4 3.1
March 256,342 260,794 268,375 275,503

April 256,732 262,905 269,169 276,225

May 257,578 264,438 270,559 277,135

June 257,491 265,486 271,503 278,390

July 257,541 265,551 271,963 278,325

August 256,095 265,567 272,112 278,158

September 256,133 265,315 272,136 277,804

October 256,409 265,704 272,787 278,565

November 256,823 266,251 272,347 277,885

December 257,251 266,136 272,614 278,176

Jan - Feb Average 255,338 258,212 266,616 272,886 281,440 10.2 3.1
12-Month Average 256,589 263,714 270,566 276,828

Export Table DataNotes: 

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 9: Network Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees*, February 2014 - 2018

(FTEs for February of each year. Ranked by February 2018 FTEs)

RankCarrier20142015201620172018Percent Change

2014 - 2018 2017 - 2018
1 American (+ US) 91,303 93,636 97,405 99,845 100,902 10.5 1.1

American 59,699 61,410 97,405 99,845 100,902 N/A 1.1

US Airways 31,604 32,226 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2 United 80,694 78,380 79,385 82,225 82,516 2.3 0.4
3 Delta 73,602 76,440 79,214 79,510 81,772 11.1 2.8
4 Alaska 9,559 10,340 10,983 11,785 16,551 73.1 40.4

Total 255,158 258,796 266,987 273,365 281,741 10.4 3.1

Export Table DataNotes: * Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. ** American Airlines and US Airways merged and began reporting combined numbers in July 2015. Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 10: Low-Cost Airline Year-to-Year Change in Full-time Equivalent Employees* from the Previous Year, February 2018

Percent change compared to same month of the previous year

2015201620172018
January 4.6 7.9 9.7 2.6
February 4.6 8.5 9.4 2.4
March 3.9 9.6 9.1

April 4.2 10.2 8.8

May 4.3 10.7 8.3

June 4.9 11.0 8.0

July 5.2 11.3 7.3

August 5.8 11.0 7.0

September 6.6 10.6 6.8

October 6.9 10.3 6.7

November 6.5 9.8 6.5

December 7.8 9.5 6.5

Export Table DataNotes: 

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 11: Low-Cost Airlines Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month 2014 - 2018, February 2018

20142015201620172018Percent Change

2014 - 2018 2017 - 2018
January 69,693 72,909 78,638 86,287 88,502 27.0 2.6
February 70,135 73,351 79,578 87,030 89,096 27.0 2.4
March 70,384 73,163 80,202 87,532

April 70,751 73,695 81,180 88,289

May 71,095 74,167 82,070 88,859

June 71,074 74,592 82,796 89,392

July 71,272 74,999 83,481 89,576

August 71,387 75,549 83,823 89,718

September 71,428 76,176 84,284 90,038

October 72,110 77,063 85,033 90,751

November 73,014 77,783 85,439 91,015

December 72,399 78,035 85,434 91,004

Jan - Feb Average 69,914 73,130 79,108 86,659 88,799 27.0 2.5
12-Month Average 71,229 75,124 82,663 89,124

Export Table DataNotes: 

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 12: Low-Cost Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees*, February 2014 - 2018

(FTEs for February of each year. Ranked by February 2018 FTEs)

RankCarrier20142015201620172018Percent Change

2014 - 2018 2017 - 2018
1 Southwest 45,091 46,784 50,449 54,551 56,835 26.0 4.2
2 JetBlue 13,301 13,901 15,383 16,852 17,979 35.2 6.7
3 Spirit 3,534 4,079 4,916 5,652 6,767 91.5 19.7
4 Allegiant 2,134 2,460 3,008 3,488 3,783 77.3 8.5
5 Frontier 3,565 3,575 3,002 3,472 3,732 4.7 7.5
6 Virgin America 2,510 2,552 2,820 3,015 N/A N/A N/A

Total 70,135 73,351 79,578 87,030 89,096 27.0 2.4

Export Table DataNotes: 

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 13: Regional Airline Year-to-Year Change in Full-time Equivalent Employees* from the Previous Year, February 2018

Percent change compared to same month of the previous year

Month2015201620172018
January -1.9 2.2 1.8 1.8
February -0.3 0.2 2.4 3.6
March -0.5 0.1 2.0

April -0.4 0.1 2.1

May -0.3 0.2 2.5

June 0.1 0.9 2.6

July -3.3 3.3 2.7

August -2.7 3.3 3.3

September -2.7 2.9 4.3

October 1.4 0.3 5.2

November -0.2 0.2 5.4

December 0.9 0.2 6.0

Export Table DataNotes: 

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 14: Regional Airlines Full-time Equivalent Employees* by Month 2014 - 2018, February 2018

20142015201620172018Percent Change

2014 - 2018 2017 - 2018
January 50,425 49,477 50,544 51,430 52,352 3.8 1.8
February 50,458 50,318 50,416 51,614 53,490 6.0 3.6
March 50,623 50,361 50,424 51,442

April 50,526 50,326 50,374 51,438

May 50,633 50,469 50,554 51,803

June 50,336 50,373 50,823 52,144

July 51,107 49,403 51,021 52,408

August 50,671 49,320 50,957 52,615

September 50,574 49,231 50,677 52,871

October 49,789 50,486 50,637 53,255

November 50,605 50,522 50,625 53,346

December 50,083 50,521 50,616 53,639

Jan - Feb Average 50,442 49,898 50,480 51,522 52,921 4.9 2.7
12-Month Average 50,486 50,067 50,639 52,334

Export Table DataNotes: 

* Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 15: Regional Airline Full-time Equivalent Employees*, February 2014 - 2018

(FTEs for February of each year. Ranked by February 2018 FTEs)

RankCarrier20142015201620172018Percent Change

RankCarrier20142015201620172018Percent Change

2014 - 2018 2017 - 2018
1 SkyWest 9,831 9,747 10,569 11,159 13,578 38.1 21.7
2 Envoy 10,955 10,936 10,620 11,171 12,589 14.9 12.7
3 YX/S5/RP Combined# 5,853 5,934 5,387 5,510 5,607 -4.2 1.8

Republic 2,752 3,150 3,147 5,510 5,607 N/A N/A

Shuttle America 1,970 2,784 2,240 N/A N/A N/A N/A

Chautauqua 1,131 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
4 Endeavor 3,892 3,306 3,332 3,842 4,306 10.6 12.1
5 ExpressJet 9,201 8,846 7,229 6,167 4,114 -55.3 -33.3
6 Horizon 2,798 2,874 3,246 3,287 3,593 28.4 9.3
7 PSA 1,227 1,956 2,529 2,854 3,563 190.4 24.8
8 Mesa 1,841 2,313 2,827 3,025 3,151 71.2 4.2
9 Compass 1,203 1,361 1,653 1,898 1,726 43.5 -9.1
10 GoJet 1,113 1,128 1,197 1,328 1,263 13.5 -4.9
11 Air Wisconsin 2,544 1,917 1,827 1,373 N/A N/A N/A

Total 50,458 50,318 50,416 51,614 53,490 6.0 3.6

Export Table DataNotes: * Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. # Effective the end of December 2016, Republic and Shuttle America combined operations and Shuttle America ceased operating. Effective the end of December 2014, Shuttle America and Chautauqua Airlines combined operations and Chautauqua ceased operating. N/A: Carriers did not meet the standard for filing, was no longer operating, merged with another operating carrier or failed to file. See previous notes.



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