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Passenger Airline Employment Down 2.4 Percent
By Jim Douglas

August 27, 2013 - U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 381,441 workers in June 2013, 2.4 percent fewer than in June 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today. Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines. 

June was the 10th consecutive month that full-time equivalent (FTE) employment for U.S. scheduled passenger carriers was below that of the same month of the previous year, June 2013 FTE total for scheduled passenger carriers was 9,482 fewer than in June 2012. 

The 2.4 percent decline in FTEs in June 2013 from June 2012 was primarily due to two factors. First, American Airlines, the industry’s third largest employer, filed for bankruptcy and reduced FTEs by 8.4 percent year-to-year.


Second, network carriers have responded to increased fuel costs by reducing contracts with the regional airlines that operate less fuel-efficient regional jets.  Regional airline employment is down 4.4 percent year-to-year.

The five network airlines that collectively employ two-thirds of the scheduled passenger airline FTEs reported 2.8 percent fewer FTEs in June 2013 than in June 2012, the 11th consecutive month with a decline from the same month of the previous year. 

Delta Air Lines reduced FTEs by 3.9 percent from June 2012, American Airlines by 8.4 percent and United Airlines by 0.1 percent. US Airways reported 2.1 percent more FTEs, while Alaska Airlines increased FTEs by 3.7 percent from June 2012. Network airlines operate a significant portion of flights using at least one hub where connections are made for flights to down-line destinations or spoke cities. 

Three of the six low-cost carriers Allegiant Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways reported an increase in FTEs from June 2012. Southwest Airlines, Virgin America and Frontier Airlines reported FTEs declined from a year earlier. Low-cost airlines operate under a low-cost business model, with infrastructure and aircraft operating costs below the overall industry average.



Among the currently operating 13 regional carriers, seven carriers reported reduced employment levels in May compared to the previous year: ExpressJet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Horizon Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines, Air Wisconsin, Compass Airlines and PSA Airlines. Regional carriers typically provide service from small cities, using primarily regional jets to support the network carriers’ hub and spoke systems. 

Carrier Groups: The five network airlines employed 67.3 percent of the total number of FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in June, the six low-cost carriers employed 18.2 percent and the 13 regional carriers employed 13.0 percent. The three airlines with the most FTEs in June United, Delta and American employed 56.7 percent of the month’s total passenger airline FTEs. These three airlines carried 39.5 percent of total passengers traveling on U.S. airlines in May, the most recent month available. 

Top employers by group: United employed the most FTEs (82,498) in June among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (45,216) among low-cost airlines, and American Eagle Airlines employed the most FTEs (11,166) among regional airlines. Four of the top five employers in the industry are network airlines. 

Network Airlines Recent Trend - The network airlines employed 7,511 fewer FTEs in June 2013 than in June 2012, a 2.8 percent decrease. Three of the five network carriers reported an FTE decrease from June 2012 to June 2013. 

Five-Year Trend - The network airlines employed 4,018 fewer FTEs in June 2013 than in June 2009, a 1.5 percent decrease. American reported the biggest percentage decline in FTE employment from 2009 to 2013, 13.3 percent, followed by US Airways, down 0.1 percent. June 2009 and June 2013 numbers for United and Delta are not directly comparable because of the intervening mergers. United reported 2.3 percent more FTEs in June 2013 than United and Continental reported separately in June 2009; Delta reported 4.5 percent more FTEs in June 2013 than Delta and Northwest reported separately in June 2009. 

Low-Cost Airlines Recent Trend - The six low-cost airlines’ reported 0.6 percent fewer FTEs in June 2013 than in June 2012. Frontier, Virgin America and Southwest reported year-to-year decreases while the remaining three airlines reported increases. 

Five-Year Trend - The low-cost carriers reported 9.6 percent more FTEs in June 2013 than in June 2009.  Spirit reported the largest percentage increase, 78.5 percent, while Frontier reported a 17.8 percent decline. June 2013 numbers for Southwest are not directly comparable to 2009 because of the intervening merger. Southwest reported 4.0 percent more FTEs in June 2013 than Southwest and AirTran reported separately in June 2009. 

Regional Airlines Recent Trend - Regional airlines reported a 4.4 percent decrease in FTE employment in June 2013 compared to June 2012 with three regional airlines having stopped service since a year ago. Republic Airlines and GoJet Airlines reported the largest percentage increases in FTEs from June 2012 to June 2013 among airlines not involved in mergers. Pinnacle and Horizon reported the largest percentage decreases. 

Five-Year Trend - The 13 regional carriers operating in June employed 12.6 percent fewer FTEs in 2013 than the 18 carriers operating in June 2009.  Pinnacle reported the largest percentage decline followed by Mesa. The ExpressJet/Atlantic Southeast combination reported 1.5 percent fewer FTE’s in June 2013 than the two airlines reported separately in June 2009. GoJet reported the biggest four-year percentage gain. 

Airlines that operate at least one aircraft with capacity of more than 60 seats or the capacity to carry combined passengers, cargo and fuel of more than 18,000 pounds the payload factor must report monthly employment statistics. The “Other Carrier” category generally reflects those airlines that operate within specific niche markets such as Hawaiian Airlines serving the Hawaiian Islands.
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