U.S. Airline Employment Trends

March 2018 Passenger Airline Employment Data

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 2.8 percent more workers in March 2018 than in March 2017:

  • The highest monthly full-time equivalent (FTE) employment total (434,243 FTEs) since December 2004 (436,909 FTEs).
  • The 53rd 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 March, 1990-2018

FTEs in thousands (000)

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

Notes: 

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

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

All 21 scheduled service passenger airlines

  • 434,243 FTEs
  • 2.8 percent (11,965 FTEs) more than March 2017 (422,278 FTEs)
  • 13.2 percent (50,668 FTEs) more than March 2014 (383,575 FTEs)

Four network airlines

  • 283,162 FTEs, 65.2 percent of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • 2.8 percent (7,659 FTEs) more than March 2017 (275,503 FTEs)
  • 10.5 percent (26,820 FTEs) more than March 2014 (256,342 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

  • 89,593 FTEs, 20.6 percent of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • 2.4 percent (2,061 FTEs) more than March 2017 (87,532 FTEs)
  • 27.3 percent (19,209 FTEs) more than March 2014 (70,384 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

  • 53,597 FTEs, 12.3 percent of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • 4.2 percent (2,155 FTEs) more than in March 2017 (51,442 FTEs)
  • 5.9 percent (2,974 FTEs) more than March 2014 (50,623 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    101,408 FTEs
  • Low-Cost: Southwest   57,112 FTEs
  • Regional: SkyWest       13,570 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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