Passenger Airline Employment For October Down 0.4 Percent


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Passenger Airline Employment For October Down 0.4 Percent

By Steve Hall

December 18, 2010 - U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 0.4 percent fewer workers in October 2010 than in October 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported.

This is the 28th consecutive decrease 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 October FTE total of 378,112 for the scheduled passenger carriers was 1,601 below that of October 2009. Historic employment data can be found on the BTS web site.

Five network airlines ? American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, Continental Airlines and United Airlines ? decreased employment from October 2009 to October 2010.  The sixth network carrier, Delta Air Lines, after completing its merger with Northwest Airlines, is reporting combined employment numbers in 2010 and reported 1.0 percent more FTEs in October 2010 than the combined totals of both carriers for October 2009.

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 seven low-cost carriers reported more FTEs in October 2010 than in October 2009. They are Virgin America Airlines; Frontier Airlines; Spirit Airlines; Allegiant Air; JetBlue Airways; Southwest Airlines; and AirTran Airways. 

Regional carriers Lynx Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Horizon Air, Comair, Mesaba Airlines, Shuttle America Airlines, and Executive 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 255,890 FTEs in October, 67.7 percent of the passenger airline total, while seven low-cost carriers employed 17.0 percent and 18 regional carriers employed 13.9 percent.  

Delta employed the most FTEs in October 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 October 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 decreased 1.2 percent in October 2010 compared to October 2009. The network airlines employed 3,141 fewer FTEs in October 2010 than in October 2009 (Table 8). Delta and Northwest reported separately in October 2009 while their reports were combined in October 2010. 

Within the group, all network carriers except Delta decreased FTEs from October 2009 to October 2010: Alaska, 3.6 percent; American, 2.7 percent; Continental, 2.4 percent; US Airways, 1.7 percent; and United, 1.1 percent. Delta increased FTEs by 1.0 percent compared to total Delta and Northwest FTEs for October 2009. 

The network airlines employed 7,151 fewer FTEs in October 2010 than in 2006 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 2006 to 2010 was at United, down 16.8 percent, a reduction of 8,783 FTEs, followed by American, down 10.5 percent. October 2010 numbers for Delta and US Airways are not comparable to 2006 because of the intervening mergers.  

Low-cost airline FTEs were up 3.0 percent in October 2010 from October 2009. All seven low-cost airlines reported year-to-year increases: Virgin America, 20.2 percent; Frontier, 13.0 percent; Spirit, 12.6 percent; Allegiant, 7.4 percent; JetBlue, 4.1 percent; Southwest, 0.7 percent and AirTran, 0.2 percent. 

The six low-cost carriers reporting employment data in both 2006 and 2010 employed 10.1 percent more FTEs in October 2010 than in October 2006.  Allegiant reported the largest percentage increase, up 96.5 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 0.5 percent in October 2010 compared to October 2009. Lynx, down 69.5 percent and Mesa, down 19.0 percent, reported the largest decreases in the regional group. Republic Airlines, up 15.0 percent; and Compass Airlines, up 10.9 percent, reported the largest increases in the group. 

The 15 regional carriers reporting employment data in both 2006 and 2010 employed 11.4 percent fewer FTEs in 2010 than in 2006. Comair reported the largest percentage decline, down 58.4 percent, followed by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, down 34.7 percent, and Mesa Airlines, down 34.2 percent. Republic reported the biggest four-year gain, 239.8 percent, followed by GoJet at 75.8 percent. Effective with October 2009 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 Continental Micronesia in the Southwest Pacific and Hawaiian Airlines serving the Hawaiian Islands.

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