The first thing that I wish to add on this topic is that the two manufacturers are saying that both "theories" have merit. The disagreement comes in which will be the more dominant trend. Boeing acknowledges that there is a market for a larger aircraft, but that market is limited, so therefore does not justify the expense of developing a new aircraft for it. On the other hand, why would Airbus be proposing the A350 unless they foresee the need for such an aircraft?
As to which idea will prove most correct, I tend to favor the point-to-point idea. I base this on two actual occurrences. The first is the Southwest effect on domestic travel, which has definitely shown a growing desire for direct services as opposed to connecting via a hub. I see no reason that this would not extend to international services unless stymied by political forces, such as the past requirement that planes serving Dublin had to also serve Shannon.
The second thing that supports this is that overseas routes are already showing an increase in ptp services. I look at Seattle - Asia services as an example: Twenty years ago, Seattle saw 20 weekly flights to Narita (NW with 7, UA
with 6, TG
with 4, JL
with 3), all operated by 747's. In addition, Northwest had 747 service to Seoul, from 3 to 5 flights a week depending on season. United also had daily flights to HKG
, with DC-10's. So that is approximately 30 weekly flights, mostly with 747's. Now, the flights to NRT
are only 14 a week, but UA
uses the 777, and NW
the A330. Service to Hong Kong is gone, but there are 12 flights per week to Taipei - EVA Air has daily 747 service, China Airlines 5 each week with A340, up from only 3 last year. Northwest no longer service Seoul nonstop, but Asiana has 3 weekly flights with the 777, which will be matched by Korean Air next month. So once the KE
service starts, SEA
will have 32 weekly flights to Asia, but only 7 of those use the 747. So the total service has not changed much, but the concentration on the main Asian hub is much less, and the relative size of aircraft has also lessened. Sounds much like the Boeing outlook of future international air travel.