March 2013 Passenger Airline Employment Down 2.7 Percent from March 2012

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 380,325 workers in March 2013, 2.7 percent fewer than in March 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today. March was the seventh consecutive month that full-time equivalent (FTE) employment for U.S. scheduled passenger carriers was below that of the same month of the previous year, (December 2010 through August 2012) (Tables 1, 2).

BTS, a part of the Department's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the March 2013 FTE total for scheduled passenger carriers was 10,436 fewer than in March 2012 and down 3.0 percent from the recent March high of 392,077 in March 2009 (Table 3). Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines. Historical employment data (http://www.transtats.bts.gov/Employment/) can be found on the BTS web site.

The five network airlines that collectively employ two-thirds of the scheduled passenger airline FTEs reported 3.3 percent fewer FTEs in March 2013 than in March 2012, the eighth consecutive decline from the same month of the previous year. Delta Air Lines reduced FTEs by 4.1 percent from March 2012. American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, reduced FTEs by 9.9 percent over the same period. United Airlines reported 0.9 percent more FTEs than in March 2012. US Airways reported 1.3 percent more FTEs while Alaska Airlines increased FTEs by 3.9 percent from March 2012 (Table 9). 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.

Four of the six low-cost carriers - Allegiant Airlines, Virgin America Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways - reported an increase in FTEs. Southwest Airlines, following its merger with AirTran Airways, reported 45,791 FTEs in March 2013, 0.7 percent less than the two airlines reported separately in March 2012. Frontier Airlines also reported fewer FTEs (Table 12). Low-cost airlines operate under a low-cost business model, with infrastructure and aircraft operating costs below the overall industry average.

Among the 14 regional carriers, six carriers reported reduced employment levels in March compared to last year: ExpressJet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Horizon Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines, Air Wisconsin and Executive Airlines (Table 15). 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 67.0 percent of the total number of FTEs employed by all scheduled passenger airlines in March, the six low-cost carriers employed 18.4 percent and the 14 regional carriers employed 13.2 percent (Table 4). The three airlines with the most FTEs in March - United, Delta and American - employed 56.6 percent of the month's total passenger airline FTEs (Table 6). These three airlines carried 39.6 percent of total passengers traveling on U.S. airlines in February, the most recent month available.

Top employers by group: United employed the most FTEs (82,835) in March among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs (45,791) among low-cost airlines, and American Eagle Airlines employed the most FTEs (11,244) among regional airlines. Four of the top five employers in the industry are network airlines (Table 6).

Network Airlines

Recent Trend: The network airlines employed 8,594 fewer FTEs in March 2013 than in March 2012, a 3.3 percent decrease. Three of the five network carriers reported an FTE increase from March 2012 to March 2013 (Tables 8, 9).

Five-Year Trend: The network airlines employed 9,941 fewer FTEs in March 2013 than in March 2009, a 3.8 percent decrease. American reported the biggest percentage decline in FTE employment from 2009 to 2013, 15.6 percent, followed by US Airways, down 1.6 percent. March 2009 and March 2013 numbers for United and Delta are not directly comparable because of the intervening mergers. United reported 2.2 percent more FTEs in March 2013 than United and Continental reported separately in March 2009; Delta reported 0.3 percent more FTEs in March 2013 than Delta and Northwest reported separately in March 2009 (Tables 8, 9).

Low-Cost Airlines

Recent Trend: The six low-cost airlines' reported 0.1 percent fewer FTEs in March 2013 than in March 2012. All low-cost airlines except Frontier and Southwest reported year-to-year increases (Table 12).

Five-Year Trend: The six low-cost carriers reporting employment data in both 2009 and 2013 employed 10.8 percent more FTEs in March 2013 than in March 2009. Virgin America reported the largest percentage increase (70.9 percent), while Frontier reported a 13.2 percent decline. March 2013 numbers for Southwest are not directly comparable to 2009 because of the intervening merger. Southwest reported 5.6 percent more FTEs in March 2013 than Southwest and AirTran reported separately in March 2009 (Table 12).

Regional Airlines

Recent Trend: Regional airlines reported a 4.6 percent decrease in FTE employment in March 2013 compared to March 2012. GoJet Airlines and Republic Airlines reported the largest percentage increases in FTEs from March 2012 to March 2013 among airlines not involved in mergers. Executive and Pinnacle reported the largest percentage decreases (Table 15).

Five-Year Trend: The 14 regional carriers reporting employment data in both March 2009 and March 2013 employed 12.4 percent fewer FTEs in 2013 than in 2009. For airlines not involved in mergers, Executive reported the largest percentage decline followed by Mesa. The ExpressJet/Atlantic Southeast combination reported 6.5 percent fewer FTE's in March 2013 than the two airlines reported separately in March 2009. The Pinnacle/Mesaba combination reported 39.5 percent fewer FTE's in March 2013 than the two airlines reported separately in March 2009. GoJet reported the biggest four-year percentage gain (Table 15).

Airlines that operate at least one aircraft with capacity of more than 60 seats or the capacity to carry combined passengers, cargo and fuel of more than 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.

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial air carriers as of May 16. Additional airline employment data (http://www.transtats.bts.gov/Employment/ ) and previous press releases (http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/press_releases/passenger_airline_employment.html) can be found on the BTS website. BTS has scheduled release of April passenger airline employment data for June 25.

Tables omitted, click here (http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/press_releases/bts026_13) to view

Contact: Dave Smallen, 202/366-5568

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