Taking into account relevant elements like the fleet size or the type of flights (short or long haul, passengers or cargo, ...), do airlines use typical ratios between the number of aircraft and the number of pilots and attendants?

Clarification for the type of elements I'm looking for:

  • Northwings has 120 passenger aircraft and 720 pilots, this is comparable to other US airlines with modern aircraft (6 per passenger aircraft).
  • There are between 4 and 10 Captains per passenger aircraft. This is dependent on local labor laws and unions.
  • 4 to 6 F/O for cargo aircraft (and no attendants because no passengers).
  • A380 are atypical at Thing Air with 700 flight attendants for 10 aircraft of that type.
  • Count 25% less for low cost airlines in the Middle East due to less restrictive labor laws and extended working time.

(Figures are for illustration, I've no idea of what the actual values are.)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I suspect that it varies considerably from airline to airline. I know of a low cost carrier who, from memory, had about 300 operational staff (not including head-office people like HR and finance) for a fleet of 8 narrow-bodied aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Feb 26, 2016 at 3:53
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    $\begingroup$ In addition to the parameters you already quoted, there's also the mix of aircraft types (more people needed for an A380 than for an 757), the mix of long-haul/very long haul flights (which require multiple crews on board) and country-specific parameters such as wages and regulations (on maximum number of hours per flight/per period, rest periods, etc.). $\endgroup$
    – jcaron
    Feb 26, 2016 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like a remarkably broad question, but after chewing on it a bit and reading the 2 answers (so far), it's grown to be much more reasonable! +1 $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Feb 26, 2016 at 15:45

1 Answer 1


My answer may not directly answer your question but from MIT's The Airline Data Project, I extract data for year 2014 and put in table as follow:

Employees Per Aircraft                                  Southwest    United    American Airlines   Delta Airlines    Jetblue Airways
Pilots & Co-Pilots (Crews)                              6.0          8.3       6.8                 7.4               6.5
Flight Attendants (Crews)                               5.9          8.8       7.3                 6.8               5.0
Maintenance (Inhouse)                                   3.5          10.5      17.4                11.4              3.8
Passenger, Cargo and Aircraft Handling (Inhouse)        29.2         63.9      30.7                36.7              27.1
Other (Inhouse)                                         6.9          6.9       10.8                18.1              10.0
Total                                                   70.9         132.2     98.1                107.5             68.2

note that total number of crew does not add up with each type of crew in the table

Hope it gives you some idea about the ratio of pilot and flight attendant

  • $\begingroup$ 6-8 pilots per aircraft is too low. That would be a reasonable # of captains/ aircraft, plus again that many FO's per aircraft. Since different planes require varying FA crew sizes, I don't know what the conversion should be there. Those "total" numbers look reasonable as in employees/aircraft, but the details have some sort of other, missing, conversion factors. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Feb 26, 2016 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @RalphJ, I think the unit is "crews". The flight deck crew is typically two persons, the number of flight attendants in a crew varies between aircraft types. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Feb 26, 2016 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ @DeltaLima I'd buy that answer. Need to know the size of the FA crew in each case to get a meaningful answer to this question, obviously. Elsewhere in the MIT data, perhaps? $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Feb 26, 2016 at 15:41

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