Topic of the Week: Hubs Keep Getting Bigger

American, United

This last week, we saw Qantas announce that it was upgauging its Sydney-Dallas/Ft Worth flight to an A380. That means more feed for American in Dallas. Meanwhile, United is launching a flight from Denver to Panama City to help feed Copa’s hub. Airlines have spent time building up their own hubs for years, but now strong partners are seeing even greater opportunity to connect with each other. What’s next in this game? What other routes do you think we’ll see from airline partners next?

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16 comments on “Topic of the Week: Hubs Keep Getting Bigger

      1. I believe as part of its original bilateral agreement with CO, Copa was prohibited from flying between Panama City & any CO hub. I don’t think that agreement, if it still exists, carried over to heritage UA hubs, since Copa continues to serve IAD & ORD.

  1. We’re also seeing added service on DL to AMS, CDG, and FCO

    There will be a growth of these hub-hub trunk routes, and while Pax may not like the double connection, it is a very efficient way of moving people. And when you are looking at 15+ hour trips, the added connection doesn’t add a whole lot of time to the journey, but could be more comfortable in having time to stretch your legs. For the airlines, more pax means bigger planes with lower costs and more frequency.

  2. Consolidation at its best. People have noted that DEN-PTY frees up seats on DEN-IAH for higher yielding Mexico/Europe/Lagos routes cause those Central/South American connections are now on Copa at PTY.

    We think pax don’t like double connections, but for most people who take them that’s the only choice there is. HSV-PRG requires HSV-ATL-AMS-PRG or something like it. The hub structure provides reasonable connecting times and available seats (I think I saw a number like 96% of pax demand can be satisfied through routings two-stops or less – however due to price people may take crazier routings).

  3. I’m amazed that it takes so long for some partner/alliance carriers to start hub-to-hub service with all their hubs.

  4. While I don’t have any speculation on new hub routes, a huge draw back to the trend is irregular operations. With more eggs in fewer baskets, weather can cause some real operational chaos withe mega hubs. Look at DFW yesterday – a big part of AA’s schedule took a hit due to storms.

  5. The trend is obviously toward fewer, bigger hubs. The trend in aircraft is also fewer and larger.

    In theory, this is more efficient and should help with costs, but as Brandon points out it also has drawbacks.

    As for new routes, I have no clue. I do think, rather obviously I admit, there’ll be some realignment and growth because of US Airways and Tam’s switch from Star to oneworld and the advent of newer more efficient long range aircraft.

  6. A savvy airline will compete with ATL by setting up a mini hub in HSV or BHM. These airports are open to support easier connections at competitive fares..

    1. But do HSV and BHM have enough local demand? Most successful hubs are in large cities and operate with a mix of local O&D as well as connecting traffic; attempting to create hubs based primarily on connections hasn’t worked so well in the past.

  7. Time to play a game. Name cities with greater than X million people population that are more than two connections apart. Not sure where to set X, to make it interesting.

    1. You never said X had to be an integer. :)

      I want to see the northern lights. One time I was reading about it and heard that there was some town in Greenland that was good to see them. Sure, Fairbanks would be a lot easier, but how many times do you contemplate flying an airline that operates the Dash 7 (Air Greenland in this case)? If I’m remembering correctly, I figured out it would take me 5 segments to get there from San Diego.

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