Passenger Airline Employment

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April 2020 U.S. Passenger Airline Employment Data

Release Number: 
BTS 40-20
Date: Thursday, June 18, 2020

The 23 U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 6.7% fewer full-time equivalents (FTEs) in mid-April 2020 than in mid-March 2020:

  • Mid-April’s total number of FTEs (428,569) was down almost 31,000 workers from mid-March 2020 (459,250 FTEs) and was the lowest FTE total for any month since August 2017 (423,747 FTEs).
  • Mid-April 2020 FTEs were down 4.0% or almost 18,000 FTEs from April 2019 (446,323 FTEs).  
  • April was the first month that U.S. scheduled passenger airline FTEs were lower than the same month of the previous year since April 2013.

Regulations require U.S. airlines to report employment numbers for employees who worked or received pay for any part of the pay period(s) ending nearest the 15th day of the month. U.S. airline employment reports are filed monthly with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See the tables that accompany this release on the BTS website for detailed data since 2015 (Tables 1-15) and industry summary data since 1990.

(Full-Time Equivalents)
April FTEs in thousands (000)
1990452.7
1991442.3
1992448.5
1993439.5
1994435.9
1995425.0
1996436.5
1997448.8
1998466.0
1999490.4
2000515.6
2001538.8
2002462.5
2003449.3
2004438.6
2005423.5
2006403.9
2007409.7
2008415.4
2009392.1
2010376.7
2011384.0
2012387.6
2013380.5
2014384.3
2015393.4
2016407.8
2017423.7
2018436.3
2019446.3
2020428.6
Notes: 

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

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

All 23 scheduled service passenger airlines (mid-April)

  • 428,569 FTEs
  • Down 4.0% (17,754 FTEs) from April 2019 (446,323 FTEs)
  • Up 5.1% (20,806 FTEs) from April 2016 (407,763 FTEs)

Four network airlines (mid-April)

  • 262,300 FTEs, 61.2% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Down 8.6% (24,795 FTEs) from April 2019 (287,095 FTEs)
  • Down 2.6% (6,869FTEs) from April 2016 (269,169 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 (mid-April)

  • 98,621 FTEs, 23.0% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 4.1% (3,903 FTEs) from April 2019 (94,718 FTEs)
  • Up 21.5% (17,441 FTEs) from April 2016 (81,180 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 (mid-April)

  • 59,142 FTEs, 13.8% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 4.9% (2,770 FTEs) from April 2019 (56,372 FTEs)
  • Up 17.4% (8,768 FTEs) from April 2016 (50,374 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       102,831 FTEs
  • Low-Cost: Southwest      61,029 FTEs
  • Regional: SkyWest          17,597 FTEs

Four other airlines

Other carriers generally operate within specific niche markets. They are: Hawaiian Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, Silver Airlines and Eastern 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.

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial air carriers as of June 10.  Additional airline employment data and previous releases can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of May passenger airline employment data for July 20.

Updated: Thursday, June 18, 2020