This paper uses a variety of data sources to track the earnings
of airline industry employees over the past two decades and assess
the changes that have occurred since deregulation in 1978.
Individual microdata from Census files as well as collective
bargaining contract information are used to follow wages for
pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and workers as a whole.
Perhaps surprisingly, I find that the real earnings of airline
workers have declined only modestly in the past 10 years.
Comparisons with other groups of workers suggest that these
declines have been about the same or only slightly larger than
those observed for most other workers in the economy. Furthermore,
within the airline industry, the declines in earnings have been
similar for all three groups of skilled workers. If the
deregulated industry can be taken as a competitive benchmark, these
findings suggest that the regulatory rents earned by airline
workers prior to deregulation were relatively small. This view
fails to explain the wide inter-firm variation in earnings that has
emerged in the post-deregulation period, however. An alternative
interpretation is that rents continue to exist at many airline
firms, and that these rents continue to be shared by employees at
the successful airlines.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Card, D. (1989). Deregulation and Labor Earnings in the Airline Industry. Retrieved from (Original work published 01/1989AD)
Working Papers

This paper presents data on airline mechanics at eight of the
largest U.S. airlines and describes the impact of the 1978 Airline
Deregulation Act on their wage rates and employment levels. The major
findings are: (1) up to 1983, real and relative wage rates of airline
mechanics remained more or less constant across firms and over time; (2)
the independence of mechanics’ wage rates from firm-specific employment
conditions after 1978 is consistent with pre-deregulatory experiences;
(3) deregulation contributed to an existing trend of declining
employment; and (4) deregulation did not bring about any systematic
increase in mechanics’ productivity.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 39, July 1986
Card, D. (1985). The Impact of Deregulation on the Employment and Wages of Airline Mechanics. Retrieved from (Original work published 06/1985AD)
Working Papers