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U.S. Airline Employment is Rising

August 20, 2019

U.S. airlines carried an all-time monthly record of 78 million passengers on domestic and international flights in July, according to the Estimated U.S. Airline Traffic Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). U.S. airline employment rose to 450,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in June, the highest number since March 2003, according to BTS’s U.S. Passenger Airline Employment Data.

BTS classifies the 21 U.S. scheduled passenger airlines into 4 categories: Network, low-cost, regional, or niche. Network airlines route a significant portion of their flights through central hubs to connect dispersed destinations; BTS considers Alaska, American, Delta, and United to be network airlines. These companies have added 24,000 FTEs since 2015.

Although network airlines added the most employees since 2015, low-cost and regional airlines expanded FTEs at faster rates. Low-cost airlines increased their share of total airline employment from 19 percent in 2015 to 21 percent in 2019.


Modern aviation has transformed travel, and thanks to the partnership between the airlines and the Department of Transportation (DOT), more Americans are safely travelling than ever before. DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao recently spoke at a celebration commemorating the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Secretary Chao observed that the railroad’s completion in 1869 shortened the New York to San Francisco travel time from as much as six months to a single week. Today, the trip takes thousands of American passengers only hours via plane and can be made without ever losing a WiFi connection.

These passenger numbers have reached an all-time record. According to the just-released Estimated U.S. Airline Traffic Data for July from the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), U.S. airlines carried 78 million passengers on domestic and international flights, an all-time monthly record, seasonally adjusted. The July 2019 passenger numbers are up 4% from July 2018, 9% from July 2017 and almost 15% from July 2016. As more travelers take to the skies, the Department remains committed to ensuring that the U.S. aviation system is safe and accessible for every passenger.

Last updated: Friday, September 13, 2019