First off, I would have to agree that Columbus is not an essential part of America West's current route system. However, I don't believe it's the "step-child" of their system either.
America West's Columbus hub was a good idea at first. It served as an eastern connection city to feed passengers from their West Coast operations to cities along the East Coast and Florida. However, as previously stated, America West added flights from their main hubs in Phoenix and Las Vegas to the East Coast and Florida, bypassing Columbus. Consequently, passenger loads dropped. Another factor was the loss of America West Express. They served a dozen Midwest and Eastern U.S. cities from Columbus with Beech 1900 aircraft. They claimed that they were loosing money, and discontinued all operations. This move eliminated all the feeder traffic from CMH. America West therefore began to slowly trim Columbus operations. First by discontinuing all Florida service from Columbus, and then slowly implementing Mesa CRJ's on select East Coast routes and Chicago.
America West's current status in CMH is this: 43 daily nonstop flights to 11 cities. America West's Columbus to Los Angeles WILL return early next year, and will be upgraded from an A319 to an A320. America West only runs Airbus A320 and A319, and CRJ aircraft into Columbus.
Though this may seem very pathetic for an airline hub, it makes money. The implementation of Mesa aircraft on certain routes was a much better alternative than discontinuing routes altogether. I do believe, however, that America West made some unwise decisions concerning their CMH hub as well.
They never should have discontinued all Florida routes. This was an imprudent move, as it freed up America West's main Florida competitors, Delta Express and Southwest, to quickly snatch up the routes. America West did three things wrong: they did not match fares with competing airlines, they did not offer that flights at a popular time, and they operated aircraft that were too large for the routes. Delta Express and Southwest began flights to both Orlando and Tampa, slowly destroying America West in those markets. America West offered flights to Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and other Florida cities in the Winter, hoping to catch travelers headed south during the winter. However, Florida is just as popular, or even more so, during the summer from Columbus. Also, America West offered 737-300 and A320 service to these cities. Now, American Eagle has taken over the Miami route with 2 seasonal ERJ-145 flights, Delta Express has taken over Ft. Lauderdale and Ft. Meyers service and is now operating these flights in the summer, and both Southwest and Delta Express have increased flights to Orlando and Tampa. America West has only recently realized their mistake and has reinstated seasonal Ft. Meyers service.
I don't think increasing flights from PHX and LAS was a mistake, but it did draw a lot of connecting traffic from CMH. To make up for this, they should have implemented CRJ service to several mid-sized cities from CMH, such as Providence, Manchester, Norfolk, and Richmond.
Lastly, I don't think America West will abandon Columbus altogether. They have invested too much in the city to attempt such a measure. They have not shown any signs of permanently discontinuing all service from CMH. America West still remains an active player in the Columbus community. The are the official airline of the Columbus Crew MLS team, the Columbus Zoo, and COSI (Center Of Science and Industry) Columbus. They have also increased service to Chicago Midway, and implemented new routes to Hartford and Chicago O'Hare. I do not see America West implementing a huge amount of growth in CMH either. As stated earlier, there is too much competition in the East Coast. However, I do believe that if done correctly and passed in a slow manner, they can build Columbus into a modest hub.