January 2020 U.S. Passenger Airline Employment Data

The 21 U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 2.5% more workers in January 2020 than in January 2019:

  • January’s 452,933 full-time equivalents (FTEs) was down from the previous month’s employment total in December 2019 (453,976 FTEs) but was the highest FTE total for the month of January since 2003 (466,881 FTEs).  
  • January was the 75th 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 January, 1990-2020 (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

  • 452,933 FTEs
  • Up 2.5% (11,150 FTEs) from January 2019 (441,783 FTEs)
  • Up 12.6% (50,663 FTEs) from January 2016 (402,270 FTEs)

Four network airlines

  • 287,755 FTEs, 63.5% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 1.4% (3,930 FTEs) from January 2019 (283,825 FTEs)
  • Up 8.1% (21,510 FTEs) from January 2016 (266,245 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

  • 98,040 FTEs, 21.6% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 5.1% (4,733 FTEs) from January 2019 (93,307 FTEs)
  • Up 24.7% (19,402 FTEs) from January 2016 (78,638 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

  • 58,860 FTEs, 13.0% of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Up 4.2% (2,374 FTEs) from January 2019 (56,486 FTEs)
  • Up 16.5% (8,316 FTEs) from January 2016 (50,544 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      101,532 FTEs
  • Low-Cost: Southwest     61,065 FTEs
  • Regional: SkyWest         15,575 FTEs

Two other airlines

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

Reporting Notes

Airlines that operate at least one aircraft that has more than 60 seats or the capacity to carry a payload of passengers, cargo and fuel weighing more than 18,000 pounds must report monthly employment statistics.