The 23 U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 4.1% fewer full-time equivalents (FTEs) in mid-May 2020 than in mid-April 2020:

  • Mid-May’s total number of FTEs (411,651) was down almost 18,000 FTEs from mid-April 2020 (429,407 FTEs) and down more than 48,000 FTEs from mid-March 2020.  It was the lowest FTE total for any month since May 2016 (410,338 FTEs).
  • Mid-May 2020 FTEs were down more than 36,000 FTEs, down 8.1%, from May 2019 (447,981 FTEs). 

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.

Figure 1: Employees at U.S. Scheduled Passenger Airlines Month of May, 1990-2020 (Full-Time Equivalents)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-May)

  • 411,651 FTEs
  • Down 8.1% (36,330 FTEs) from May 2019 (447,981 FTEs)
  • Up 0.3% (1,313 FTEs) from May 2016 (410,338 FTEs)

Four network airlines (mid-May)

  • 247,649 FTEs, 60.2% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Down 14.0% (40,458 FTEs) from May 2019 (288,107 FTEs)
  • Down 8.5% (22,910 FTEs) from May 2016 (270,559 FTEs)
  • Down 5.6% (14,651 FTEs) from mid-April 2020 (262,300 FTEs)
  • Down 15.0% (43,560 FTEs) from mid-March (291,209 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-May)

  • 98,641 FTEs, 24.0% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 3.7% (3,516 FTEs) from May 2019 (95,125 FTEs)
  • Up 20.2% (16,571 FTEs) from May 2016 (82,070 FTEs)
  • Virtually unchanged (down 20 FTEs) from mid-April 2020 (98,621 FTEs)
  • Up 0.1% from mid-March (110 FTEs) from mid-March 2020 (98,531 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)

  • 56,366 FTEs, 13.7% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Down 0.4% (242 FTEs) from May 2019 (56,608 FTEs)
  • Up 11.5% (5,812 FTEs) from May 2016 (50,554 FTEs)
  • Down 4.7% (2,776 FTEs) from mid-April 2020 (59,142 FTEs)
  • Down 7.6% (4,637 FTEs) from mid-March 2020 (61,003 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       101,704 FTEs
  • Low-Cost: Southwest      61,179 FTEs
  • Regional: SkyWest          17,422 FTEs

Four other airlines

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

Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

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