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U.S. Budget Airlines Added Jobs in 2013 While Major Carriers Cut Them

@SamShankman

Dec 18, 2013 2:30 pm

Skift Take

Increased airline fees are almost always discussed in a negative light, but are also largely to credit for airlines’ growing profits that lead to job creation instead of loss.

— Samantha Shankman

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Ian Gratton  / Flickr

Spirit Airlines prepares to land at San Diego Airport. Ian Gratton / Flickr


Super cheap Spirit Airlines had the biggest hiring hike of all U.S. carriers over the last year, while three of the five network U.S. airlines cut jobs year-over-year.

Data released today from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics highlight the change in full-time employees at each U.S. airline between October 2012 and October 2013.

United Airlines, Delta, Air Lines, and American Airlines cut between 0.2 percent and 5.5 percent of their staff during the one-year period.

Frontier had the largest decrease in full-time workers, 14.2 percent, likely in preparation of its sale to Indigo Partners, which plans to turn the airline into an ultra-low-cost carrier.

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Budget airlines increased their full-time staff the most year-over-year.

In addition to Spirit’s 24 percent increase in employees, Allegiant‘s full-time staff grew 12.9 percent and JetBlue‘s team grew 3.9 percent.

The staff changes are somewhat proportional to the airlines’ profits.

Budget airlines keep airfares low by tacking on fees for everything from carry-on luggage to cans of soda. Airlines that stick to this strategy the most are also consistently profitable and generating jobs.

Spirit reported its fourth straight profitable year in February 2013 and Allegiant reported its 40th consecutive profitable quarter in the same month.

The exception is Southwest Airlines, which cut 2 percent of its staff over the last year despite being on track for its 42nd year of profitability. This is most likely due to its continual integration of AirTran Airways, which it acquired in 2011.

And as much as the extra costs irk flyers, they are bringing the aviation industry into one of its healthiest financial periods ever. North American carriers will generate $5.8 billion in net income this year.

The following chart outlines the change in full-time employees, which counts two part-time employees as one full-time employee, for U.S. airlines in October 2012 and October 2013.

Rank Airline 2012 2013 Percent Change (’12 to ’13)
1 Spirit Airlines 2,812 3,487 24
2 Allegiant Air 17,79 2,009 12.9
3 JetBlue Airways 12,506 12,993 3.9
4 US Airways 30,366 31,364 3.3
5 Alaska Airlines 9,205 9,495 3.2
6 Virgin America 2,433 2,496 2.6
7 United Airlines 82,312 82,141 -0.2
8 Delta Air Lines 74,663 73,492 -1.6
9 Southwest Airlines 46,015 45,074 -2
10 American Airlines 62,700 59,249 -5.5
11 Frontier Airlines 4,007 3,437 -14.2

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

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