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Published:January 18th, 2007 08:52 EST
BTS Releases November Passenger Airline Employment Data

BTS Releases November Passenger Airline Employment Data

By SOP newswire

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 1.6 percent fewer workers in November 2006 than in November 2005, the smallest drop since February 2005 in full-time equivalent employee (FTE) levels for the scheduled passenger carriers from the same month of the previous year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today (Table 2).  FTE calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee. 

Only the network carrier group reported fewer FTE employees in November than in the prior year with a 3.4 percent decrease while all other carriers combined employed 2.0 percent more FTEs than a year earlier (Table 1).   

Adding FTEs from November 2005 to November 2006 were network carriers Continental Airlines and Alaska Airlines (Table 9), all of the low-cost carriers except for ATA Airlines and Spirit Airlines (Table 12), and regional carriers SkyWest Airlines, Express Jet Airlines, Horizon Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Executive Airlines, Air Wisconsin Airlines, Shuttle America Airlines and Republic Airlines (Table 15). 

Scheduled passenger airlines include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines.  Many regional carriers were not required to report employment numbers before 2003, so year-to-year comparisons involving regional carriers, or the total industry, are not available for the years before 2003.   

The seven network carriers employed 263,000 FTEs in November, 65.1 percent of the passenger airline total, while low-cost carriers employed 17.6 percent and regional carriers employed 14.4 percent (Table 4).  The network carriers have employed fewer FTEs each November compared to the previous year since 2002, the only carrier group to do so (Table 5). 

American Airlines employed the most FTEs in November among the network carriers, Southwest Airlines employed the most among low-cost carriers and American Eagle Airlines employed the most among regional carriers. Seven of the top 10 employers in the industry are network carriers (Table 6).  

Network Airlines 

Network carrier FTEs declined 3.4 percent in November 2006 compared to November 2005, the smallest drop from the same month of the previous year since December 2004 (Table 7).  

Two network carriers increased FTEs from November 2005 to November 2006.  Continental’s workforce grew 5.6 percent while Alaska’s rose 4.6 percent. Delta reported an 11.2 percent drop in FTEs (Table 9).   

Collectively, the seven network carriers reduced their FTE headcount by 27.2 percent, or 98,000 FTEs, from November 2002 to November 2006.  Network carrier FTEs dropped from 361,000 during the four-year period (Table 8).    

FTEs at all seven network carriers declined in November 2006 from November 2002.  The biggest percentage decline was at US Airways, down 38.6 percent, a reduction of 12,000 FTEs. United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Northwest Airlines all reported cuts of more than 25 percent in the four years.  Continental FTEs were down 4.9 percent and Alaska’s were down 7.7 percent during that time (Table 9). 

Network carriers 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. 

Data for US Airways and America West Airlines, now in the process of merging operations, are separately reported – US Airways’ data are included in the network carriers’ category and America West’s in the low-cost carriers’ category. 

Low-Cost Airlines 

Low-cost carrier FTEs rose 0.9 percent in November 2006 compared to November 2005, the second consecutive increase after 18 consecutive decreases from the previous year (Table 10).  The 71,000 FTEs employed by the seven low-cost carriers in November account for 17.6 percent of the passenger airline total (Tables 11 and 4).  

All the low-cost carriers had FTE increases from November 2005 to November 2006 except for ATA which declined 35.1 percent and Spirit with a 2.6 percent decrease.  Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways and AirTran Airways all reported a rise of more than 10 percent (Table 12). 

Low-cost carrier FTEs were 66,000 in November 2002, 70,000 in November 2005 and 71,000 in November 2006. The rise from 2002 to 2006 was 7.9 percent (Table 12).   

Low-cost carriers are those that the industry recognizes as operating under a low-cost business model with fewer infrastructure costs and greater productivity output.  

Employment data for Independence Air, which changed its business model from a regional to low-cost carrier in mid-2004, have been included with low-cost carriers for 2003, 2004 and 2005 for consistency.  The airline discontinued all flights on Jan. 5, 2006. 

Regional Airlines 

Regional carrier FTEs were up 2.8 percent in November compared to November 2005, the largest increase in FTEs from the previous year since September 2005. (Table 13).  

SkyWest and Mesa reported the largest increases in the group.  SkyWest  employed 8.0 percent more FTEs in November 2006 than November 2005 while Mesa employed 10.8 percent more (Table 15). 

Regional carrier FTEs rose from 42,000 in November 2003 to 58,000 in November 2006, an increase of 37 percent (Table 14).    

The nine regional carriers reporting employment data in both 2002 and 2006 employed 10 percent more FTEs in November 2006 than in November 2002.  Of that group, Air Wisconsin, Mesaba Airlines and Executive were the only carriers to report fewer FTEs in November 2006 than November 2002 (Table 15).  

Regional carriers provide service from small cities, using primarily regional jets to support the network carriers’ hub and spoke systems.            

Reporting Notes 

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 Aloha and Hawaiian Airlines in serving the Hawaiian Islands. 

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial air carriers as of Jan. 10. 

Additional airline employment data can be found on the BTS website at

http://www.bts.gov/programs/airline_information/number_of_employees/.  BTS has scheduled release of December airline employment data for Feb. 20, 2007. 

Contact:  Dave Smallen, Tel.:  (202) 366-5568