Employment in the U.S. aviation industry spreads outside of air transportation and also includes manufacturers of aircraft and parts, as well as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) workers who regulate and oversee the country's airways and aviation system. In 2016, the average number of U.S. passenger airline full-time equivalent employees amounted to around 549,670 people. Around 82,700 of them were employed by a low-cost airline in that same year.
Most people involved in air transport work for the relative handful of major air carriers and only a minority is actually employed in specialized fields such as an airport pilot, technician or aircraft mechanic. In 2016, the number of pilots in the United States certified by the FAA was recorded to be at around 584,362. In the U.S., pilot certification is split into five categories: student pilot, recreational pilot, private pilot, commercial pilot, and airline transport pilot. The majority of aviation workers perform tasks unrelated to aircraft operations such as: flight services, baggage handling, fueling, food services etc.
As of December 2016, American Airlines was acknowledged to be both the leading passenger airline in the U.S. by number of full-time employees and also having the best paid pilots in the whole U.S. commercial aviation. American Airlines pilots earned an average annual salary of about 280,000 U.S. dollars as of August 29, 2016.