Passenger Airline Employment Up 0.4 Percent


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Passenger Airline Employment Up 0.4 Percent

Eddy Metcalf

March 16, 2011 - U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 0.4 percent more workers in January 2011 than they did in January 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported on Tuesday.  

This is the second consecutive increase in full-time equivalent employee (FTE) levels for the scheduled passenger carriers from the same month of the previous year. FTE calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. 

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the January FTE total of 380,949 for the scheduled passenger carriers was 1,561 more than that of January 2010 and the highest employment number since August 2009.

This second consecutive monthly increase in FTE levels for the scheduled passenger carriers from the same month of the previous year follows declines that began in mid-2008. Four network airlines American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines decreased employment from January 2010 to January 2011.  Delta Air Lines reported 2.7 percent more FTEs in January 2011 than in January 2010.  

Continental Airlines, which now includes employees that formerly worked for Continental Micronesia, reported a 1.0 percent increase. 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. 

All the low-cost carriers reported more FTEs in January 2011 than in January 2010 except for Frontier Airlines, which reported a 4.2 percent decrease. They are Virgin America Airlines; Spirit Airlines; Allegiant Air; JetBlue Airways; AirTran Airways; and Southwest Airlines. Regional carriers Lynx Airlines, Republic Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Horizon Air, Mesaba Airlines, Comair, and Compass Airlines reported reduced employment levels compared to last year. 

Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines. The six network airlines employed 258,653 FTEs in January, 67.9 percent of the passenger airline total, while seven low-cost carriers employed 17.1 percent and 18 regional carriers employed 13.9 percent. 

Delta employed the most FTEs in January among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs among low-cost airlines, and American Eagle Airlines employed the most FTEs among regional airlines. Six of the top 10 employers in the industry are network airlines. Beginning with December 2007 data, US Airways' numbers are combined with numbers for America West Airlines in the network category. For previous months, America West's numbers were included with the low-cost airlines.


Network Airlines FTEs at the group of six network airlines increased 0.3 percent in January 2011 compared to January 2010. The network airlines employed 866 more FTEs in January 2011 than in January 2010. Within the group, all network carriers except Delta and Continental decreased FTEs from January 2010 to January 2011: Alaska, 3.1 percent; American, 1.4 percent; US Airways, 0.5 percent; and United, 0.3 percent. Delta increased FTEs by 2.7 percent compared to January 2010 and Continental increased 1.0 percent.  

The network airlines employed 3,388 fewer FTEs in January 2011 than in January 2007 even though America West's numbers were not combined with US Airways in the network category until October 2007. The biggest percentage decline in FTE employment from 2007 to 2011 was at United, down 16.1 percent, a reduction of 8,366 FTEs, followed by American, down 9.6 percent. January 2011 numbers for Delta and US Airways are not comparable to 2007 because of the intervening mergers. 

Low-cost airline FTEs were up 2.2 percent in January 2011 from January 2010. All seven low-cost airlines except for Frontier Airlines reported year-to-year increases: Virgin America, 20.8 percent; Spirit, 14.1 percent; Allegiant, 6.3 percent; JetBlue, 4.1 percent; AirTran, 1.4 percent and Southwest, 1.0 percent. 

The six low-cost carriers reporting employment data in both 2007 and 2011 employed 11.1 percent more FTEs in January 2011 than in January 2007.  Allegiant reported the largest percentage increase, up 87.4 percent. Low-cost airlines are those that the industry recognizes as operating under a low-cost business model, with lower infrastructure and aircraft operating costs.  

Regional airline FTEs were up 0.4 percent in January 2011 compared to January 2010. Lynx, down 71.1 percent and Republic, down 20.3 percent, reported the largest decreases in the regional group. GoJet Airlines, up 38.9 percent; and Colgan Airlines, up 23.1 percent, reported the largest increases in the group. 

The 15 regional carriers reporting employment data in both 2007 and 2011 employed 12.8 percent fewer FTEs in 2011 than in 2007. Comair reported the largest percentage decline, down 61.7 percent, followed by Mesa, down 37.4 percent, and Atlantic Southeast Airlines, down 35.5 percent. Republic reported the biggest four-year gain, 214.2 percent, followed by GoJet at 78.6 percent. Effective with January 2010 reporting, Republic's employment numbers include FTE's from Midwest Airlines. Midwest employment data were formerly included in the "Other Airlines" category.


Regional carriers typically provide service from small cities, using primarily regional jets to support the network carriers' hub and spoke systems. 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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