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Questions About UAL, Their Hubs 'n Routes  
User currently offlineSplitterz From United States of America, joined Apr 2011, 204 posts, RR: 0
Posted (3 years 2 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 2304 times:

The new United seems like they have the perfect set up in terms of hubs spread across the continent, their only weakness being the deep south. I have a few questions about their hubs:

Why has United chosen to make IAH their biggest hub?
Me living in the middle of the country makes it seem way out of the way if I need to make a connection...what is the logic behind there?

I have noticed that United puts regional equipment on some bigger routes...why? Are they afraid of competition? For example I frequently see ORD-ATL running on a CR7 or a E170. Wouldn't mainline AC be better suited, especially with the market?

Why did UA let go of their MIA hub back in the day?

Why doesn't UA do much p2p flying as Delta sometimes does?

I have more but lets just start there
 

9 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineapodino From United States of America, joined Apr 2005, 4280 posts, RR: 6
Reply 1, posted (3 years 2 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 2150 times:

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):

Why has United chosen to make IAH their biggest hub?
Me living in the middle of the country makes it seem way out of the way if I need to make a connection...what is the logic behind there?

UA inherited the IAH hub from CO, which was CO's biggest hub. Basically IAH and ORD both fill similar roles, but IAH can handle more connecting traffic than ORD. ORD is still very very important though.

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):

I have noticed that United puts regional equipment on some bigger routes...why? Are they afraid of competition? For example I frequently see ORD-ATL running on a CR7 or a E170. Wouldn't mainline AC be better suited, especially with the market?

The key point thing here is on a lot of those cities, they have lots of frequency, the trick is to match the demand time to the frequency. If more people want to fly at 4 pm than lets say noon, than it makes sense to have a bigger airplane scheduled then, and to use an RJ for the noon flight, since there won't be as much demand. UA has become a master at this in recent years, as opposed to AA who basically runs nothing but Mad Dog's and 737's on all their frequencies rather than size the capacity.

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
Why did UA let go of their MIA hub back in the day?

I don't know for sure, but I think the MIA hub that was inherited from PA was around the time of the ESOP program, which led UA into a financial tailspin that eventually gave UA Glenn Tilton. AA by that time had built up MIA on the remnants of the Eastern Airlines hub, and UA decided they couldn't make money there and instead focused on their bread and butter routes (ORD, SFO, DEN, LAX, and IAD)

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):

Why doesn't UA do much p2p flying as Delta sometimes does?

It is impossible to consistently attract enough high yield traffic without a good FF base. Outside of UA's hub cities, there isn't really a good FF base, and thus it is tough to make money. DL doesn't have a hub in BOS, but they have enough FF clientele in BOS and in the south that some P2P routes out of BOS can work. UA doesn't have that. UA's strong hold historically have been ORD and on the west coast, but WN's growth out west has made it pretty tough for UA, though OO does operate a few odd ball P2P's, and UA does still operate a SEA-NRT flight. But simply put, most legacy carriers are focused on Hub and Spoke, and P2P just doesn't make sense for most of them.


User currently offlineSurfandSnow From United States of America, joined Jan 2009, 2869 posts, RR: 30
Reply 2, posted (3 years 2 months 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 2093 times:

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
The new United seems like they have the perfect set up in terms of hubs spread across the continent

Yes, the new UA has a great set of hubs. These networks matched up beautifully, with PMUA's strong West Coast, Rockies, Great Plains, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic presence bolstered by CO's extensive service throughout the Northeast and South (including the key Florida and Texas markets). Internationally, too, we saw a leading transpacific airline with a burgeoning network in the (Arab) Middle East and Africa tie up with a competitor that filled in key holes in Latin America, India, Israel and Europe.

Compare that to DL, which acquired three hubs - one in a large market with dubious economic fortunes (DTW), one in a strong market with very limited international potential (MSP), and one that was largely redundant (MEM). Of course, that's not to say that the merger with NW wasn't a great thing for DL, just goes to show that UA really gained two major prizes (IAH and EWR) from its merger with CO  .

Now, I wouldn't go so far as "perfect", given the competitive nature of many hubs. Many here claim that with aggressive competition at the likes of DEN, ORD, NYC, LAX, and now SFO (VX), UA is subject to intense pricing pressure that other legacies don't have to worry about so much at their fortress hubs like MSP, CLT, DFW, MIA, etc.

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
their only weakness being the deep south.

Well, when it comes to UA, service to this region is about to be much better than it has ever been. Some rather significant markets like JAN, BTR, GPT, MOB, SHV, etc. will be joining the system, and those that already do have UA service like HSV, PNS, SAV, and LIT will get a huge boost from links to IAH (much better suited to serving the region than any PMUA hub) and in some cases EWR. Markets still without service like AGS, MGM, and CHA can be easily reached via codeshare through fellow Star Alliance carrier US's CLT hub.

Let's not kid ourselves, it's not as if the Deep South is some bastion of wealth that is thriving economically. Many markets are so small and poor that even DL can't make them work (several are currently on the chopping block), and it's not like the only other competitor AA has the region covered any better than the new UA will.

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
Why has United chosen to make IAH their biggest hub?

It wasn't some random "choice", IAH happened to be the largest hub going into the merger and will remain the largest hub once it's all said and done. I don't see how this is at all surprising. The largest PMUA hub was at ORD, but there you have several issues:

1) Direct competition from AA, resulting in by far the biggest dual hub competition/showdown between U.S. legacies today.

2) Aggressive growth in the Chicagoland market by WN, which has been rapidly expanding from the convenient MDW airport (which has far superior terminal facilities, at least from a pax perspective) and establishing a fiercely loyal following throughout the catchment area.

3) LCC pricing pressure, resulting from VX's highly touted arrival into ORD coupled with unprecedented NK expansion from ORD into key business markets. Also, the little brouhaha between F9, FL, and WN up at MKE drove down fares there so much that many Chicago suburbanites flocked to that airport, instead of using ORD. Bear in mind that MKE is close enough in terms of miles to pop up as an alternate option to ORD/MDW for flights into "Chicago" on fare search sites like Orbitz.

4) Subpar terminal facilities with virtually no room for growth. Some people seem to like Terminal 1, but I think the place is severely lacking in amenities/entertainment (full service restaurants, bars, shops) and is just a crowded, outdated dump overall. I don't even need to get into how bad T2 is. In any case, T1 appears to be fully built out and UA has gobbled up as much of T2 for UAX ops as it can, now that DL has decided to stake its claim there. Oh, and the long, arduous beyond-security terminal transfer between T5 - where all UA (and AA) incoming, non-precleared int'l arrivals come in and all Star Alliance partners (other than LH and NH) depart - and T1/T2 makes almost any other int'l-domestic or domestic-int'l partner connection at a U.S. airline hub seem like a walk in the park. Why UA is so opposed to a freshly built new terminal (where they could probably have their own FIS) away from the rest of the airport's congestion on the western side of the airport is just absolutely beyond me.

Now, let's compare that to IAH:

1) An extremely stong, fortress-style hub a la AA @ DFW. CO/"UA" is so strong there that LCCs such as WN and F9 have been driven out and over to HOU, leaving just token legacy competition at IAH.

2) Yes, you do have to contend with a big WN presence over at HOU, but that airline has been so busy with growth at DEN/STL/MDW and now the merger that it hasn't done much of anything from it lately. Other HOU carriers like FL and B6 haven't done much of anything (in terms of expansion, anyway) either. Moreover, since HOU lacks FIS, UA won't have to worry about WN offering international flights from the market anytime soon (but they will in Chicago, where WN will almost certainly add all kinds of stuff from MDW).

3) There just aren't any nearby alternate choices aside from HOU. While HOU's low fares prevent UA from charging sky high fares from IAH (as DL can largely get away with out of places like MSP and ATL), the competitors/airport aren't growing as we have seen in Chicago/Milwaukee lately. It also helps that Houston is a rapidly growing city relatively unaffected by the housing crisis/economic crisis. Chicago hasn't fared quite as well, in terms of population or job growth.

4) State of the art terminal facilities, with room to spare in Terminals A (and even D) if UA needs to grow. Terminal E is excellent, I have been through FIS there and it is just so friendly and easy, and domestic connections are so simple if you need to do one. It has everything you could ever want - large gate areas, spacious bright clean interior, chock full of bars, shops, and restaurants, etc. Terminal C isn't great, but it did get a nice makeover and is perfectly acceptable for handling the relatively short domestic/transborder flights that it does. Terminal B isn't so great and Terminal A is very spartan, but then again, regional facilities at most major U.S. airports are inferior to their mainline and/or international counterparts.

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
Me living in the middle of the country makes it seem way out of the way if I need to make a connection...what is the logic behind there?

Where exactly do you live? I fly LAX-RSW all the time (no nonstop option available), and IAH is right on the way for me. In fact, I connect through there whenever I can because both the terminals and PMCO planes are excellent. IAH caters to Sunbelt traffic flows to/from places like California, Hawaii, Arizona, Florida, etc. very well. It obviously doesn't make much sense if you are trying to do OMA-BOS or MKE-SEA, but that's what UA's hubs at ORD or DEN are for  .

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
I have noticed that United puts regional equipment on some bigger routes...why? Are they afraid of competition? For example I frequently see ORD-ATL running on a CR7 or a E170. Wouldn't mainline AC be better suited, especially with the market?

Every legacy now puts regional a/c on "bigger routes". A route like ORD-ATL caters mainly to 2 things: business traffic, and people connecting on to someplace else beyond the hub. Business people cry about small planes all the time, but in the end they still claim to value higher frequency (inherently operated by smaller planes) rather than more limited choices on bigger aircraft. Higher frequency also boosts connectivity options beyond the hub, so offering more flights each day on smaller planes means DL can connect ORD pax to more places and UA/AA can connect ATL pax to more places too. UA is much better utilizing that mainline aircraft for a route that actually requires its range or capacity. You would be surprised how empty some of the "business" routes like ORD-ATL or ORD-LGA used to be when operated by mainline all day long. If I had to guess, I would imagine the more popular flights (probably the early morning and early evening flights) are still mainline, while the less busy ones (at least when it comes to the all-important biz crowd) such as the mid-day and late night ones are probably now regional. Makes much more sense from an operations and profitability standpoint when you think about it.

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
Why did UA let go of their MIA hub back in the day?

MIA was never a hub. UA's traditional hubs were at IAD, ORD, DEN, and SFO, with LAX only becoming an official hub in the late 90s/early 2000s. UA did, however, offer service from several key international gateways, dating back to routes it had acquired from Pan Am. South America was for obvious reasons served primarily from MIA, and there was a bit of domestic feed (MCO, ATL, DCA, etc.) that linked up with the daily bank. But that was it, UA always played second-fiddle to a rapidly growing AA hub down there, and by the time they went into bankruptcy in the early 2000s it was quickly deemed a non-essential operation that had to go. They used Concourse F back then, which was a truly awful facility. It made more sense to streamline the network and put resources into strong hubs (IAD, ORD) rather than weak focus cities (MIA, JFK). UA was somewhat of a pioneer in this regard, as we saw AA and US later follow suit several years later.

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
Why doesn't UA do much p2p flying as Delta sometimes does?

They do p2p flying when and if it makes sense to do so. Competing on ultra-competitive routes like MIA-South America and JFK-LHR didn't make much sense. But offering niche routes like SNA-Hawaii and SEA-NRT (no Japanese competitor there) does make sense, so they do it. As Delta has been busy drawing down capacity from two once major hubs in recent years, they have quite a bit more aircraft availability than competitors UA/CO/AA/US do and are thus much more likely to try some p2p routes.

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
I have more but lets just start there

Ask away! My mom is a UA f/a and I have been flying/following them my whole life, so I should be able to answer any questions you may have!



Flying in the middle seat of coach is much better than not flying at all!
User currently offlineSplitterz From United States of America, joined Apr 2011, 204 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (3 years 2 months 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 1764 times:

Thanks for the great responses!

Here are some more questions..

How is United IFE upgrades going? Is there plans to introduce wifi to the entire fleet including some regionals?

When will we first begin to see all United flight #s?

Why did the new United choose to use PMCO reservations system over PMUA's?


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25346 posts, RR: 22
Reply 4, posted (3 years 2 months 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 1726 times:

Quoting apodino (Reply 1):
and UA does still operate a SEA-NRT flight.

UA's first international route in 1983 (other than SEA-YVR and ORD-YYZ).


User currently offlinejonathanxxxx From United States of America, joined Feb 2011, 673 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (3 years 2 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 1696 times:

Well I don't know much about UA but I know about their former "hub" at MIA!

Quoting apodino (Reply 1):
Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
Why did UA let go of their MIA hub back in the day?

I don't know for sure, but I think the MIA hub that was inherited from PA was around the time of the ESOP program, which led UA into a financial tailspin that eventually gave UA Glenn Tilton. AA by that time had built up MIA on the remnants of the Eastern Airlines hub, and UA decided they couldn't make money there and instead focused on their bread and butter routes (ORD, SFO, DEN, LAX, and IAD)
Quoting SurfandSnow (Reply 2):


        
Definitely. When PA got the MIA hub EA was leading. UA found the routes profitable and decided they should keep them. While UA left them the MIA hub more or less the way it was AA saw a chance to run them out of town and expand dramatically. After kicking out UA of MIA, UA's presence in South Florida, well besides MCO, Florida overall is very weak for them. They don't serve PBI or FLL (yes they're both much lower yeilding than MIA but most other carriers can manage). And their presence in MIA is just a few CRJ's to IAD and a once in a while 757 to DEN and ORD. Very minimal presence.

On the other hand, CO ran 7X daily 737's to EWR and ___X daily 737's to IAH. There presence was significantly larger. DL and US also seem to make MIA work even with AA dominating. DL now serves JFK, DCA, LAX, LHR, ATL, DTW, MSP and MEM from MIA. US runs many daily frequences between MIA and PIT, PHL and CLT. UA just seems to be reluctant to expanding here lately.

Many A.netters will tell you that the reason was because of low yeilds. Many beleive that but it is NOT true. MIA has a very large fashion and financial district. If a carrier tries it can make it work. DL has been trying and they seem to making MIA work very well. In fact DL kind of has the mini hub UA had back then!

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
Why doesn't UA do much p2p flying as Delta sometimes does?

UA does point to point flying where the competition is minimal and where there are no extreme fare wars. Their cost structure and standards just can't compete with DL. DL has this ability almost to enter a market where it is already over-saturated and make it work. They also, like what has been said before, have much more spread out FF's while PMUA's are more concentrated in SFO, LAX, ORD, DEN and IAD areas respectively.


User currently offlineDrerx7 From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 5192 posts, RR: 8
Reply 6, posted (3 years 2 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 1625 times:

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
Why has United chosen to make IAH their biggest hub?

As they have already said, IAH was already larger than ORD for CO/UA and it will remain such per the reasons other posters have said...minus the elephant in the room - Latin America. IAH is well positioned as a Latin American hub and is a welcome alternative to MIA from a pax standpoint. Also IAH has tremendous yields for international travel due to Houston's strong oil and gas and medical industry. Its a reason why IAH has 1xdaily to DOH 2x daily to DXB etc.

Quoting SurfandSnow (Reply 2):
4) State of the art terminal facilities, with room to spare in Terminals A (and even D) if UA needs to grow. Terminal E is excellent, I have been through FIS there and it is just so friendly and easy, and domestic connections are so simple if you need to do one. It has everything you could ever want - large gate areas, spacious bright clean interior, chock full of bars, shops, and restaurants, etc. Terminal C isn't great, but it did get a nice makeover and is perfectly acceptable for handling the relatively short domestic/transborder flights that it does. Terminal B isn't so great and Terminal A is very spartan, but then again, regional facilities at most major U.S. airports are inferior to their mainline and/or international counterparts.

Ground was broken on the $1 Billion + reconstruction of Terminal B which will have a north side mimicking Terminal E and a south complex for regionals - also with another FIS.



Third Coast born, means I'm Texas raised
User currently offlinejonathanxxxx From United States of America, joined Feb 2011, 673 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (3 years 2 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 1613 times:

Quoting Drerx7 (Reply 6):
IAH is well positioned as a Latin American hub and is a welcome alternative to MIA from a pax standpoint.

Have you been to MIA lately? The North Terminal (D) is quite nice and passenger friendly. The South Terminal isn't that bad anymore either.

[Edited 2011-07-21 12:38:23]

User currently offlineDrerx7 From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 5192 posts, RR: 8
Reply 8, posted (3 years 2 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 1602 times:

Quoting jonathanxxxx (Reply 7):
Have you been to MIA lately. The North Terminal (D) is quite nice and passenger friendly. The South Terminal isn't that bad anymore either.

I don't necessarily mean entirely by dilapidation - I should clarify. IAH is an easier airport to transit and not as busy as MIA for Int'l connections.



Third Coast born, means I'm Texas raised
User currently offlineTOMMY767 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 6584 posts, RR: 8
Reply 9, posted (3 years 2 months 3 days ago) and read 1542 times:

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):

Why did UA let go of their MIA hub back in the day?

The early 2000s BK period. Out of that, UA closed crew and pilot bases at MIA, JFK, and EWR and downsized several other key gateways (SEA and BOS come to mind.) Right around the turn of the century UA had a pretty good presence down in MIA to several South American cities with some additional feed from select US cities and a hearty amount of widebody service to the hubs. They could NEVER compete, or even tried to compete with AA but they did have some awesome route authorities such as GRU, GIG, EZE, and CCS to name a few. I recall flying MIA-ORD with a 777 in February of 2000.

Quoting Splitterz (Thread starter):
Why doesn't UA do much p2p flying as Delta sometimes does?

Unfortunately neither UA or CO was big on the P2P route structure, or at least have not been for the last decade or so. There is some P2P flying out of SEA to NRT (UA 777) and ANC (CO 737) as well as some regional UAEX ops out of LAS, PDX, and SEA but not nearly as much as they used to be.



"Folks that's the news and I'm outta here!" -- Dennis Miller
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