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Hubs And Focus Cities Questions

Thu Jul 12, 2012 6:25 am

Hi all and before I go any further, I would apology if this has been asked before. The questions are how do we know when a station becomes a focus city? becomes a hub? and when will a hub becomes a mega hub or a fortress hub ? (numbers of flights per day? destinations? gates? passengers?) Thanks in advance.


[Edited 2012-07-11 23:33:31]
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RE: Hubs And Focus Cities Questions

Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:53 am

This is very much like asking what makes someone cute, what's the difference between beautiful and cute, what features make someone gorgeous, etc. You may get some rough understanding that many agree on, but there are often sharp disagreements on specific examples.

I'll wade in with some general feedback.

A "hub" is an airport where one or more airlines has an operatation designed for signifciant connecdting flow, as well as local traffic.

A "wayport" is an airport where one or more airlines has an operation designed for virtually nothing but connecting flow. At one point a decade or two ago these were proposed to be built in the middle of nowhere to ease pressure on big airports. No true "wayports" were ever built, but now and then you'll here the term thrown around, especially when speaking of a hub airport where the local market isn't very big.

A "fortress hub" is a hub which is so dominant of the entire airport that the hubbing airline has excessive control over fares and perhaps facilities, often making it difficult for competitors to come to the market

A "focus city" is an an airport where an airline has an unusually high amount of service (flights and destinations) but it mostly serves local traffic.

There is essentially no defninition on numbers of flights, or destinations, or gates, or % of passengers who are connecting which defines any of these. What makes it more difficult is that airlines themselves use the terms in differing ways, often for marketing purposes. Many airlines don't use the term "focus city" in a public or external way, and so when they are pushing to build their presence in a market they'll call it a "hub" even when it is more of a focus city. Southwest was skittish at ever using the "hub" term in public in an attempt to differentiate themselves even though they've had de facto hubs for years. And there's a messy issue of scale. For an airline like Delta with many flights to many destinations, they can have 30+ flights to 8-12 cities without that station being thought of as anything important. If a smaller airline like Jetblue, Frontier or Virgin America built up a station with 30+ flights to 8-12 nonstop cities, it would probably be referred to as a hub by the airline and by observers.

So you can get a general idea of what people mean when they use these terms, but don't be surprsied when there's a lot of disagreement on the issue.
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RE: Hubs And Focus Cities Questions

Fri Jul 13, 2012 3:09 am

I think it's really what ever the said airline calls it. For example Great Lakes Airlines routes 4 departures a day out of Albuquerque to two cities with probably very few online connections, if any (though I'm sure with interline connections), and its called a hub.

On the flip side Southwest runs 244 daily departures out of Midway daily, with clearly many connecting passengers, yet they don't call this a hub.
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RE: Hubs And Focus Cities Questions

Fri Jul 13, 2012 3:27 am

Hub is what every airline calls a Mega connection city.
Focus city is what southwest calls it's hubs.
my post are my opinion only and not those of southwest airlines and or airtran airlines.
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RE: Hubs And Focus Cities Questions

Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:25 pm

I understand a focus city as a city with point to point service bypassing a hub. TWA called San Juan a focus city with service to a number of cities, like LAX, that did not pass through Saint Louis or JFK. The number of destinations serviced to be called a focus city is an eternal question.
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RE: Hubs And Focus Cities Questions

Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:57 am

LAX is a good example of a station most major airlines (AA, DL, UA, WN, HA) use as a focus city, but not a hub. Many flights are operated to non-hub stations in the U.S., flights to Hawaii and cities in Baja Mexico are often routed through here, and it is a common stopover for connections on international codeshares to destinations in Asia and the Pacific. It could be considered a hub for Virgin America; nearly every new destination they announce is to/from LAX and SFO. For Alaska Air, kind of a grey area as mentioned above; too big to be considered a focus city, but definitely not a fortress hub either (SEA and ANC would be for AS); LAX would be a mini-hub for AS (along with PDX). Domestic connecting/multi-leg flights on legacy carriers where LAX is not the origin or final destination are more likely to be routed through one of the larger hub stations of that particular airline (for example, UA- via IAH, EWR, SFO, IAD, ORD. AA, via DFW, MIA, ORD. DL, via ATL, SLC, CVG, MSP. US, via PHL, CLT, PHX). Also as one comment suggested above, WN does not fly the traditional hub and spoke system of the legacy carriers, so on some routes between two cities where neither the origin nor destination is a hub for one of the legacy carriers, they may have the only nonstop option, or connections/through flights via any of their focus cities on or near the route.

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