Passenger Airline Employment Down 0.6 Percent
 
  
 
 
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Passenger Airline Employment Down 0.6 Percent
 
By Steve Hall
 

November 30, 2012 - U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 386,372 workers in September 2012, 0.6 percent less than in September 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported. 

Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines. This was the first time since October 2010, a period of 22 months that full-time equivalent (FTE) employee levels for U.S. scheduled passenger carriers have been lower than the same month of the previous year. 

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the September 2012 FTE total of 386,372 for scheduled passenger carriers, 2,269 fewer than in September 2011, is the lowest monthly total since June 2011. 

 

The five network airlines that collectively employ two-thirds of the scheduled passenger airline FTEs reported 0.8 percent fewer FTEs in September, the second consecutive decline for the group. Delta Air Lines, eliminating positions following its merger with Northwest Airlines, reduced FTEs by 1.8 percent from September 2011. 

American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, reduced FTEs by 4.4 percent. United Airlines reported a post-merger total of 82,137 FTEs in September 2012, 1,933 or 2.4 percent more FTEs than the 80,204 United and Continental Airlines reported separately in September 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 46,048 FTEs in September 2012 in a joint report following its merger with AirTran Airways. The combined total was 988 or 2.2 percent more than the 45,060 FTEs the two airlines reported separately in September 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, nine carriers reported reduced employment levels compared to last year: Colgan Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Horizon Airlines, Republic Airlines, Comair, Pinnacle Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and Executive Airlines. The total number of FTEs reported by Pinnacle – which recently merged with Mesaba Airlines – was 24.4 percent fewer than the total number of FTEs reported individually by the two airlines prior to the merger. 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 67.5 percent of the total number of FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in September, the six low-cost carriers employed 18.0 percent and the 16 regional carriers employed 13.2 percent. The three airlines with the most FTEs in September – United, Delta and American – employed 57.2 percent of the total passenger airline FTEs. 

Top employers by group: The newly-merged United employed the most FTEs (82,137) in September among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (46,048) among low-cost airlines, and American Eagle Airlines employed the most FTEs (10,082) among regional airlines. Four of the top five employers in the industry are network airlines. 

Network Airlines - Recent Trend: The network airlines employed 1,990 fewer FTEs in September 2012 than in September 2011. Three of the five network carriers increased FTEs from September 2011 to September 2012. 

Five-Year Trend: The network airlines employed 7,769 fewer FTEs in September 2012 than in September 2008, a 2.9 percent decrease. American reported the biggest percentage decline in FTE employment from 2008 to 2012, 10.2 percent, followed by Alaska Airlines, down 6.2 percent. September 2008 and September 2012 numbers for United and Delta are not directly comparable because of the intervening mergers. United reported 0.5 percent fewer FTEs in September 2012 than United and Continental reported separately in September 2008; Delta reported 1.9 percent more FTEs in September 2012 than Delta and Northwest reported separately in September 2008. 

Low-Cost Airlines - Recent Trend: The six low-cost airlines' FTEs were up 2.5 percent in September 2012 from September 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 11.3 percent more FTEs in September 2012 than in September 2008.  Virgin America reported the largest percentage increase (108.7 percent), while Frontier reported a decline. September 2012 numbers for Southwest are not directly comparable to 2008 because of the intervening merger. Southwest reported 7.3 percent more FTEs in September 2012 than Southwest and AirTran reported separately in September 2008. 

Regional Airlines - Recent Trend: Regional airlines reported a 4.3 percent decrease in FTE employment in September 2012 compared to September 2011. GoJet Airlines and Shuttle America report the largest percentage increases in FTEs from September 2011 to September 2012 among airlines not involved in mergers. Comair and Colgan reported the largest percentage decreases. Atlantic Southeast Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines reported separately in September 2011, as did Pinnacle and Mesaba, while their reports were combined in September 2012 as a result of mergers. 

Five-Year Trend: The 16 regional carriers reporting employment data in both 2008 and 2012 employed 14.0 percent fewer FTEs in 2012 than in 2008. Comair reported the largest percentage decline followed by Colgan. GoJet reported the biggest four-year percentage gain. Effective with January 2011 reporting, Republic's employment numbers include FTEs from Midwest Airlines. Midwest employment data were formerly included in the "Other Airlines" category.

 
 
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