The 21 U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 3.1% more workers in December 2019 than in December 2018:

  • December’s 453,976 full-time equivalents (FTEs) was the highest employment total since March 2003 (458,598 FTEs). 
  • December was the 74th consecutive month that U.S. scheduled passenger airline FTEs exceeded the same month of the previous year.

Employees at U.S. Scheduled Passenger Airlines Month of December, 1990-2019 (Full-Time Equivalents) Notes: 

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


Bureau of Transportation Statistics

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.

All 21 scheduled service passenger airlines

  • 453,976 FTEs
  • Up 3.1% (13,580 FTEs) from December 2018 (440,396 FTEs)
  • Up 13.1% (52,536 FTEs) from December 2015 (401,440 FTEs)

Four network airlines

  • 289,159 FTEs, 63.7% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 1.9% (5,482 FTEs) from December 2018 (283,677 FTEs)
  • Up 8.7% (23,023 FTEs) from December 2015 (266,136 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

  • 97,713 FTEs, 21.5% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 5.3% (4,924 FTEs) from December 2018 (92,789 FTEs)
  • Up 25.2% (19,678 FTEs) from December 2015 (78,035 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

  • 58,833 FTEs, 13.0% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 5.5% (3,044 FTEs) from December 2018 (55,789 FTEs)
  • Up 16.5% (8,312 FTEs) from December 2015 (50,521 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      101,450 FTEs
  • Low-Cost: Southwest     60,767 FTEs
  • Regional: SkyWest         15,602 FTEs

Two other airlines

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

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

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