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U.S. low-cost carriers add jobs this fall while legacy and regional airlines let people go

@denschaal

Jan 30, 2013 1:51 am

Skift Take

Frontier Airlines’ restructuring was a drag on the low-cost carriers’ job increases as Spirit, Virgin America and Allegiant all posted double-digit gains.

— Dennis Schaal

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Spirit Airlines' fee policy may be controversial, but the airline is adding jobs fast, and is in growth mode. Pictured is an A319.


Love Spirit Airlines for its cheap-as-dirt fares or hate it because of its fee policies, but the airline is growing fast as it added 456 jobs (an 18.8% increase) in November, catapulting a modest jobs’ increase by U.S. low cost carriers.

Low cost carriers, as a group, added jobs (1.4%) in November 2012, while network airlines (-2.4%) shed them, and regional airlines (-5.4%) dumped them at an even greater pace.

If it weren’t for restructuring at Frontier Airlines, which saw its employment ranks decline 15.2% in November 2012, when compared with the year earlier period, the low-cost carriers’ job gains would have been even more impressive.

Overall, U.S. airline jobs fell 2% to 381,639 in November 2012, compared with the year-earlier period.

The tallies, from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, comparing airline employment in November 2012 versus November 2011, were:

  • The five network airlines saw their job numbers drop 2.4% collectively, and bankrupt American (-7.4%), Delta (-3.6%), and US Airways (-0.9%) accounted for the downturn. The only two to add jobs last November were United (1.7%) and Alaska (3%). The five network airlines accounted for 67.2% of the 381,639 jobs at U.S. scheduled passenger airlines during November 2012.
  • The six U.S. low cost carriers, which accounted for 18.2% of airline jobs in November 2012, saw their employment ranks increase 1.4%. Frontier (-15.2%) was the only job loser that month, while the others Southwest-Airtran (.8%), JetBlue (3%), Spirit (18.8%), Virgin America (15.1%), and Allegiant (13.9%) saw job increases. Absolutely-no-frills Spirit added 456 jobs, while Frontier cut 708 positions. Virgin America’s job burst was primarily tied to its fleet expansion during that period.
  • The regional carriers, which were responsible for 13.1% of the airline jobs in November 2012, saw their job numbers decrease 5.4%. There were mergers among them, and Colgan Airlines went out of business, and in the end, six of them recorded job increases and seven posted employment declines. Pinnacle, which merged with Mesaba Airlines, saw a 15.7% jobs’ decline. American Eagle, the largest employer among the regional airlines, posted a 4.5% job jump.

What do the numbers say?

  • Low cost carriers as a group saw a modest expansion in jobs that was dragged down by Frontier, while regionals took the biggest percentage hit, and network carriers declined, as well, but at a slower pace than regionals.
  • Spirit Airlines, which charges for overhead bin space, added 456 jobs, an 18.8% leap, and was the largest percentage jobs generator among the low cost carriers.
  • American Airlines did what airlines in bankruptcy usually do — it eliminated jobs at a 7.4% clip.
  • Despite mergers, United-Continental saw its ranks increase 1.7%, and Southwest-AirTran posted a modest 0.8% employment increase. Both increases were a bit of a surprise because mergers usually focus on job eliminations because of synergies.

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