Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Airline Employment Highest Since October 2012, but Still Far Below 2007

The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics says that U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 384,265 workers in April, making it the fifth consecutive month that full-time equivalent (FTE) employment in the industry was higher than the same month a year earlier.

The April 2014 FTE total for scheduled passenger carriers was the highest monthly total since October 2012. In 2007, before the financial crisis and the recession, airlines had an average of nearly 557,000 FTEs and in 2001 that number exceeded 670,000.

The data, released Thursday, supports comments made a day earlier by Airlines for America Senior Vice President Sharon Pinkerton in testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.

Responding to a question from Rep. Rick Larsen, D- Wash., on how the airlines were using the revenue they’re getting from baggage fees and other fees, Pinkerton said, “What you’ve seen since 2010 – since airlines have started to make small (profit) margins (instead of losses), you’ve seen us plowing that money back into planes … Most importantly we’re starting to hire people. During the last decade when we lost $60 billion, we laid off a third of our employees. That was traumatic for all of us. But since 2010 we’ve started to build back up our employee base.”

Pinkerton said the air carriers were investing $12 billion a year in capital expenditures for new planes, in-flight entertainment, Wi-Fi, employee training, baggage systems and other investments.

She added, “When we are able to make small margins, we reinvest it back in airport infrastructure.”

At issue in Wednesday’s hearing was whether Congress ought to increase the limit on Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) from $4.50 to $8.50 to help airports build infrastructure to handle current and future traffic. The airlines oppose a higher PFC, arguing that airports have sufficient revenue from their ability to issue bonds and other sources and that higher PFCs would punish passengers and discourage air travel.

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