Passenger Airline Employment Down 2 Percent
 
  
 
 
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Passenger Airline Employment Down 2 Percent
 
By Steve Hall
 

January 29, 2013 - U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 381,639 workers in November 2012, 2.0 percent fewer than in November 2011, 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.  

This was the third consecutive month that full-time equivalent (FTE) employment for U.S. scheduled passenger carriers has been lower than the same month of the previous year. This follows 22 months of year-to-year increases that began in November 2010. 

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the November 2012 FTE total for scheduled passenger carriers was 7,722 fewer than in November 2011 and is the lowest monthly total since January 2011.  

 

There were 0.7 percent fewer FTEs in November 2012 than in October 2012.  Month-to-month changes can be affected by seasonal factors, such as the number of flights and passengers. 

The five network airlines that collectively employ two-thirds of the scheduled passenger airline FTEs reported 2.4 percent fewer FTEs in November 2012, the fourth consecutive decline for the group. Delta Air Lines, eliminating positions following its merger with Northwest Airlines, reduced FTEs by 3.6 percent from November 2011. American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, reduced FTEs by 7.4 percent. United Airlines reported a post-merger total of 82,381 FTEs in November 2012, 1,384 or 1.7 percent more FTEs than the 80,997 United and Continental Airlines reported separately in November 2011. 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. 

Among the six low-cost carriers, Allegiant Airlines, Virgin America Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways reported an increase in FTEs.  Frontier Airlines was the only low-cost carrier reporting fewer FTEs. Southwest Airlines reported 45,953 FTEs in November 2012 in a joint report following its merger with AirTran Airways. The combined total was 348 or 0.8 percent more than the 45,605 FTEs the two airlines reported separately in November 2011. Low-cost airlines operate under a low-cost business model, with infrastructure and aircraft operating costs below the overall industry average. 

 

 

Among the 16 regional carriers, seven carriers reported reduced employment levels in November compared to last year: ExpressJet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Horizon Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, Air Wisconsin and Executive Airlines. The total number of FTEs reported by Pinnacle which recently merged with Mesaba Airlines – was 15.7 percent fewer than the total number of FTEs reported individually by the two airlines prior to the merger. Colgan Airlines, which ceased flight operations after September 2012, reported one FTE in November. 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 November, the six low-cost carriers employed 18.2 percent and the 16 regional carriers employed 13.1 percent. The three airlines with the most FTEs in November United, Delta and American employed 56.9 percent of the total passenger airline FTEs.

Top employers by group: The newly-merged United employed the most FTEs (82,381) in November among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (45,953) among low-cost airlines, and American Eagle Airlines employed the most FTEs (10,616) among regional airlines. Four of the top five employers in the industry are network airlines. 

Network Airlines - Recent Trend: The network airlines employed 6,293 fewer FTEs in November 2012 than in November 2011. Only two of the five network carriers increased FTEs from November 2011 to November 2012. 

Five-Year Trend: The network airlines employed 8,391 fewer FTEs in November 2012 than in November 2008, a 3.2 percent decrease. American reported the biggest percentage decline in FTE employment from 2008 to 2012, 12.4 percent, followed by Alaska Airlines, down 4.4 percent. November 2008 and November 2012 numbers for United and Delta are not directly comparable because of the intervening mergers. United reported 1.3 percent more FTEs in November 2012 than United and Continental reported separately in November 2008; Delta reported 0.6 percent more FTEs in November 2012 than Delta and Northwest reported separately in November 2008. 

Low-Cost Airlines - Recent Trend: The six low-cost airlines’ FTEs were up 1.4 percent in November 2012 from November 2011. All low-cost airlines except Frontier reported year-to-year increases. 

Five-Year Trend: The six low-cost carriers reporting employment data in both 2008 and 2012 employed 10.8 percent more FTEs in November 2012 than in November 2008.  Virgin America reported the largest percentage increase (90.9 percent), while Frontier reported a decline. November 2012 numbers for Southwest are not directly comparable to 2008 because of the intervening merger. Southwest reported 6.9 percent more FTEs in November 2012 than Southwest and AirTran reported separately in November 2008. 

Regional Airlines - Recent Trend: Regional airlines reported a 5.4 percent decrease in FTE employment in November 2012 compared to November 2011. GoJet Airlines and Shuttle America report the largest percentage increases in FTEs from November 2011 to November 2012 among airlines not involved in mergers. Executive and Pinnacle reported the largest percentage decreases. Atlantic Southeast Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines reported separately in November 2011, as did Pinnacle and Mesaba, while their reports were combined in November 2012 as a result of mergers.

Five-Year Trend: The 13 regional carriers reporting employment data in both November 2008 and November 2012 employed 12.8 percent fewer FTEs in 2012 than in 2008. For airlines not involved in mergers, Mesa reported the largest percentage decline followed by Executive. The Pinnacle/Mesaba combination reported 33.9 percent fewer FTE’s in November 2012 than the two airlines reported separately in November 2008. GoJet reported the biggest four-year percentage gain. Effective with January 2011 reporting, Republic Airline’s employment numbers include FTEs from Midwest Airlines. Midwest employment data were formerly included in the "Other Airlines" category. 

Airlines that operate at least one aircraft with the capacity to carry combined passengers, cargo and fuel of 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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