dfwjim1
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:45 pm

SLCUT2777 wrote:
The big thing to understand about DL & SLC is the population of the Wasatch Front has more than doubled since Western Airlines began utilizing it 35 years ago. By comparison CVG, STL, PIT, CLE & even MEM have become much more stagnant. According to the SLC airport website, SLC handled over 23 million passengers in 2016 with roughly a 50/50 split between connecting and O&D passengers. If SLC were more stagnant in population growth, DL would have pulled the hub plug long ago.


Another thing that SLC has going for it, unlike the other cities mentioned, is that the Wasatch Mountains are a significant draw for those who enjoy skiing and other outdoor activities
 
klakzky123
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:46 pm

SLC is a wealthy metro period. So is MSP. That is 90% of the formula. Good economies make good hubs.
 
Adipocere
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:47 pm

PHX has managed to retain some trappings of a hub despite its smallish size compared to the megacities. It does lean heavily towards leisure and connecting traffic. There aren't any large corporate HQ's for a city its size or industries bubbling to fill up premium fares. Most of its population growth is retired dead enders from the North looking for someplace warm to die, not exactly a dynamic population.
 
phxsanslcpdx
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:51 pm

A quick look at the largest primary statistical areas in the US shows how important population is (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_p ... ted_States). Each of the top 15 metros--those with more than 3.5 million people--includes at least one big-airline hub. Below that figure, there are plenty of strong focus cities, but very few true hubs...
- Denver (~3.3 million) is phenomenally well-sited for connections, lacks nearby competitors, and has strong tourism demand.
- Portland (~3.1 million) is a small hub, lacks nearby competitors and has unusually strong demand from local business and tourism.
- Charlotte (~2.5 million) is well-sited for connections and is a fortress hub, commanding premium prices on O&D routes.
- Salt Lake City (~2.4 million) is will-sited for connections, lacks nearby competitors, and has unusually strong O&D demand driven by local businesses, the LDS church, and tourism
- Cincinnatti (~2.2 million) is a small hub, well-sited for connections, with unusually strong O&D demand from local businesses.
- Honolulu (~1 million) is the largest city within a very long distance
- Anchorage (~0.4 million) is the largest city within a very long distance
Southwest, Alaska, and the ULCCs also operate major focus cities in some of these smaller metros.
 
drdisque
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:01 pm

PatrickZ80 wrote:
incitatus wrote:
Another example like Amsterdam is Atlanta - the city of Atlanta is only 460,000 people. The metro area is more than 5 million.


That's true. Another thing about Atlanta is that there hardly are any other airports in this region, so everybody from the whole wide area has to use Atlanta airport. Athens Ben Epps and Columbus are so small they hardly count as competition, certainly not for long haul flights. I think Huntsville and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth are the closest airports capable of handling long haul traffic, but they're so far away they're hardly serious alternatives.


AHN doesn't even have scheduled service anymore.

While BHM and HSV both have long runways, HSV doesn't have a FIS and I can't even find a picture of BHM's (apparently they have one as they apparently have a seasonal charter flight from Cancun).

The closest airport to ATL with a real FIS is CLT, 250 miles away by road.

Even more amazing fact: The only airports south of the DC area and East of the Mississippi and not in Florida with a FIS are ATL, BHM (questionable), BNA, MEM, CLT, and RDU. (also MSY if you consider that it's technically on the "Eastern" side of the Mississippi, but if it's disqualified then MEM should be too I guess...) - so if we exclude airports within spitting distance of the Mississippi and airports with a phantom FIS that I can't find a picture of, you just have ATL, BNA, CLT, RDU. Not an impressive list.
Last edited by drdisque on Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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knope2001
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:05 pm

A highly anecdotal illustration on why hub fares and “owned” connecting feeder markets in the hinterland (service area) of a hub are important.

One way fares from Philadelphia for one week from today (1/26)

$334 PHL-DTW
$487 PHL-DTW-GRB
$123 PHL-DTW-DEN

Much connecting traffic is gravy at best – not nearly enough to sustain you but a nice dressing on top of substantial revenue which pays the bills. That $123 will more than cover the marginal cost of transporting another 170 pounds of human on PHL-DTW and DTW-DEN if the seat on each leg would otherwise have gone empty. You can’t sustain a hub with LGA-LAX connecting flow if there’s not enough O+D revenue nor enough high-yield connecting traffic, the kind that rarely comes other than from feeder markets you dominate.

Here’s another example of a slightly different point. Again, Delta fares a week out.

$326 on 5 of 8 Delta nonstops BOS-DTW
$172 on 3 of 8 Delta nonstops BOS-DTW

$508 BOS-DTW-MSN

So Boston-Detroit has LCC JetBlue competition, and Delta has to fare match. But BOS-DTW is large enough that Delta can boast a big schedule advantage with 8 nonstops and only matches JetBlue aggressively on certain flights. With FF loyalty, corporate contracts and a much better schedule Delta can withstand the JetBlue pressure on BOS-DTW. And the $508 BOS-DTW-MSN fare helps support BOS-DTW soundly even when Delta has to sell more $172 seats than they’re comfortable with.

A smaller market can’t weather that sort of competition without taking a serious hit. The LCC’s low fares will likely stimulate the market to fill seats but yields will drop. Too many seats will chase too little revenue, and then you end up selling more $123 connecting fares to Denver to fill seats even though you don’t have the solid core revenue to pay the bills.

Obviously these are anecdotal, and the rules are somewhat less true than they were 10-20 years ago as LCC’s have penetrated more markets. Major carrier costs are a lot lower, too. But the underlying principals still have weight.

For those of you old enough to be familiar with the notion of Wayports, the difficult economics of connecting traffic is why the idea fizzled out quickly upon scrutiny. There was serious discussion of building a handful of mega Wayport airports in rural areas which would be designed for high-volume connecting banks and zero local traffic. The idea was that metro airports and air spaces were hopelessly crowded, and the solution was to (for example) stop clogging up Chicago’s air space and airports with people flying from Hartford to San Francisco. Have them fly from Hartford to some huge airport in a wheatfield in Kansas where they could conveniently transfer to a nonstop flight to any of dozens of cities from Texas to California and beyond. Setting aside a host of other issues (where you do get all those workers in rural Kansas, how do you fund this, how do you convince airlines to move there, etc.) it just wouldn’t work economically. You’d need connecting fares from BDL to SFO to be high enough to support the entire cost of flying BDL-xxx and xxx-SFO. In the meantime the competition could offer much lower fares over there conventional hubs like ORD because BDL-ORD and ORD-SFO have a solid core of local revenue, and the $123 BDL-SFO fare was a sane thing for them to offer. The $123 BDL-xxx-SFO fare through a Wayport would be a disaster.

The story of any specific hub’s life cycle is certain influenced by specific circumstance – who bought who, what oil and the economy were doing, what competitors existed or failed, etc. But the general rules of local market and high-fare connections from your “owned” hinterland (feeder markets) are #1 and #2 in making money.
 
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compensateme
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:08 pm

klakzky123 wrote:
SLC is a wealthy metro period. So is MSP. That is 90% of the formula. Good economies make good hubs.


No, business traffic, not wealth, drives hubs. MSP, DEN and SLC are large business centers disconnected from the country's major population centers, that's 90% of the formula.
We don’t care what your next flight is.
 
CV880
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:47 pm

Ok, ATL is one of the largest O&D airports in the country. It does not even belong in the same sentence as SLC and CLT despite your constant attempts to slight it. Every hub is over served (EVERY SINGLE ONE), but get real man.[/quote]

ATL has no nearby cities with sufficient air service for competitive service whereas CLT has GSP, CAE & GSO within a 90min drive where many locals originate their air travel just to get lower fares. This has been going on for the past 30 years. The CLT O&D suffers somewhat because of it, but these same people past thru CLT to and from, probably inflating the total boarding stats a bit. Agreed that CLT is not in the same league as ATL, but there there are many more commercial airports within driving distance of CLT than ATL which siphon local boarding traffic.
 
ScottB
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:24 pm

Rajahdhani wrote:
In other words, LCC entrants and higher cost structure effectively made PIT unworkable for US (at their costs structures). I can see how connecting that many passengers, through PIT (at the high costs) would require additional 'fat' to make it work (at the higher costs). The LCCs (especially those with a lower-costing hub operation where they could pull O/D and essentially attract those O/D away from paying the 37% premium to PIT) came in an took away traffic, to their lower costs. I can see how that would erode US's ability to operate, and the decision to head to PHL.

Consider the airport now. How much does WN have, market share wise (and many don't even consider WN to be an LCC anymore)? It all boils down to costs.
Can you imagine the business case for CLE, if the improvements were allowed to have happened? High landing fees, high user fees, higher costing operations - and the competition is, in most cases, from LCCs.


The failure of the PIT hub was not caused by LCC entry into the airport or its cost structure -- at least, the cost structure wasn't material until US had already made large cuts to its hub at the airport. I've detailed the reasons for the failure of the US hub at PIT before:

Before the mid-1990s, PIT was really the only large hub which could efficiently serve the Northeast. There was plenty of airfield so there were few constraints on air traffic, unlike the NYC airports, DCA, PHL, or BOS. IAD had plenty of airfield but the original people-mover design wasn't suitable for a connecting hub. Also keep in mind that before the mid-1990s, the regional carrier fleets consisted almost entirely of propeller aircraft, so the regional affiliates could serve markets up to perhaps 500 miles away from a hub (although a 2+-hour flight on a prop was a pretty dreadful experience for most passengers). One other point was that PIT had some advantage due to incumbency; it had been a hub going back to the Allegheny days (and was also a TWA hub at one time) so it benefited from passenger loyalty & familiarity -- and those contributed to US's dominance in the smaller Northeast markets like BUF, ROC, ALB, BTV, PWM, etc. by allowing US to offer the most desirable schedules, often on mainline aircraft. If you wanted to fly between BGR & ROC, CRW & BTV, CMH & PVD, BDL & DAY, etc., PIT was probably the most convenient choice. But... many of the markets dominated by US weren't exactly thrilled by the sky-high fares which came along with their dominance.

Two key things happened in the mid-1990s: OH started to fly CRJs from CVG to many small US-dominated markets in the Northeast (and made ginormous profits by doing so) and WN built its BWI hub right on top of the US hub which had been inherited in the PI merger. BWI was in a weird position for US because it geographically overlapped with pretty much all their other hubs and wasn't the preferred airport for the D.C. market (though it is for Baltimore, of course). But once WN started growing BWI and adding service to markets like PVD, MHT, ALB, BUF, and ISP, the lower fares in those markets were less sustainable at U.S.'s high structural costs. DL/OH also took a lot of traffic via CVG, both in the larger markets where US offered mainline service and the smaller markets where US was all or mostly prop equipment. Plus CO was flying RJs from EWR/CLE and NW from DTW to take even more passengers who had historically been on US.

The wheels were already starting to come off at US in 2000. In that year, US lost $53 million while DL was posting a profit of $1.6 billion. 9/11 and the contemporaneous recession exposed all the weaknesses at US and the airline nearly collapsed. The hub (largely Metrojet) at BWI was gone by mid-2002. PIT was the least strategically valuable of the remaining hubs thanks to other carrier RJs and WN to smaller markets in the region, so US reduced the hub. Most of the costs of the PIT hub were fixed, though, so ultimately those fixed costs just ended up being spread across a declining number of passengers.

I can't really blame Allegheny County for the cost of the airport because they basically built the new terminal for which US management had asked. When the hub carrier goes from 500 daily flights to 200, costs per passenger are going to go up a lot. CLT would have likely faced similar cost issues if US had cut flights by over 50%. And IIRC, even at the time when US management was blaming Allegheny County for high costs at PIT, per passenger costs at PHL were actually higher than PIT.

alexrg wrote:
Looking back through history, you'll see a number of smaller cities acting as hubs for major air carriers. For example, AA had RDU, STL, and BNA (the last 2 inherited from TWA), USAirways had PIT, Northwest had MEM, and United had CLE. All of these cities have since been dehubbed. In general, the big three US airlines' hubs are all located in bigger cities, with the notable exception of AS, which has made major hubs/focus cities out of both SAN and SJC. What made these smaller hub cities unprofitable (despite them having been around for a long time), and why is AS seeming to be investing in building hubs in smaller cities as well?


(1) AS is not one of the so-called "big three."
(2) Neither SAN nor SJC is a "major hub/focus city" for AS. By departures, BOS & DCA could be considered larger "focus cities" for WN than either SAN or SJC for AS (and WN serves more cities non-stop from DCA than AS from SJC).

AS has largely been opportunistic in both SAN & SJC, mostly by adding non-stop markets which were unserved/underserved or dropped by other carriers, but which have enough traffic to support a daily or sub-daily Q400/E175/737. There are a few exceptions to that, like the SLC-SAN/SJC revenge flying or SJC-SAN/SNA. And it makes sense if they want to grow, given facilities constraints at their primary hub of SEA and limited market size at PDX.

As others have pointed out, changes in the U.S. airline market, including consolidation of the legacy/legacy-like carriers from roughly ten to four since 2000 and the widespread deployment of regional jets have significantly reduced the number of hubs needed to offer a comprehensive nationwide network. To be fair, though, I'd consider the closure of the RDU & BNA hubs to be more of a response to market changes in the late 1980's/early 1990s when EA & PA exited the market and CO underwent significant retrenchment.
 
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OzarkD9S
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:48 pm

OK. Legacy hubs have been dismantled in places like BNA and STL. Not O&D powerhouses to be sure but both cities have benefited from the presence of WN. WN operates connecting complexes in both cities which still play above their strictly O&D bases. Both cities are out of WN's "Top 10" stations, but the connections offered in both markets boost their importance in WN's system. I've stated before that WN's total seats in STL for example are greater than Ozark Airlines' at their STL hub's peak.

Disregarding TWA and AA in STL, the station is perfectly capable of supporting WN's version of a "hub", but not the legacy version.

Though WN is loathe to call any city a "hub", they do in fact operate several throughout the country. And a few of them are the shuttered legacy hubs of yesteryear.
"True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain." -Mercutio
 
flyfresno
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:51 am

ScottB wrote:
Rajahdhani wrote:
In other words, LCC entrants and higher cost structure effectively made PIT unworkable for US (at their costs structures). I can see how connecting that many passengers, through PIT (at the high costs) would require additional 'fat' to make it work (at the higher costs). The LCCs (especially those with a lower-costing hub operation where they could pull O/D and essentially attract those O/D away from paying the 37% premium to PIT) came in an took away traffic, to their lower costs. I can see how that would erode US's ability to operate, and the decision to head to PHL.

Consider the airport now. How much does WN have, market share wise (and many don't even consider WN to be an LCC anymore)? It all boils down to costs.
Can you imagine the business case for CLE, if the improvements were allowed to have happened? High landing fees, high user fees, higher costing operations - and the competition is, in most cases, from LCCs.


The failure of the PIT hub was not caused by LCC entry into the airport or its cost structure -- at least, the cost structure wasn't material until US had already made large cuts to its hub at the airport. I've detailed the reasons for the failure of the US hub at PIT before:

Before the mid-1990s, PIT was really the only large hub which could efficiently serve the Northeast. There was plenty of airfield so there were few constraints on air traffic, unlike the NYC airports, DCA, PHL, or BOS. IAD had plenty of airfield but the original people-mover design wasn't suitable for a connecting hub. Also keep in mind that before the mid-1990s, the regional carrier fleets consisted almost entirely of propeller aircraft, so the regional affiliates could serve markets up to perhaps 500 miles away from a hub (although a 2+-hour flight on a prop was a pretty dreadful experience for most passengers). One other point was that PIT had some advantage due to incumbency; it had been a hub going back to the Allegheny days (and was also a TWA hub at one time) so it benefited from passenger loyalty & familiarity -- and those contributed to US's dominance in the smaller Northeast markets like BUF, ROC, ALB, BTV, PWM, etc. by allowing US to offer the most desirable schedules, often on mainline aircraft. If you wanted to fly between BGR & ROC, CRW & BTV, CMH & PVD, BDL & DAY, etc., PIT was probably the most convenient choice. But... many of the markets dominated by US weren't exactly thrilled by the sky-high fares which came along with their dominance.

Two key things happened in the mid-1990s: OH started to fly CRJs from CVG to many small US-dominated markets in the Northeast (and made ginormous profits by doing so) and WN built its BWI hub right on top of the US hub which had been inherited in the PI merger. BWI was in a weird position for US because it geographically overlapped with pretty much all their other hubs and wasn't the preferred airport for the D.C. market (though it is for Baltimore, of course). But once WN started growing BWI and adding service to markets like PVD, MHT, ALB, BUF, and ISP, the lower fares in those markets were less sustainable at U.S.'s high structural costs. DL/OH also took a lot of traffic via CVG, both in the larger markets where US offered mainline service and the smaller markets where US was all or mostly prop equipment. Plus CO was flying RJs from EWR/CLE and NW from DTW to take even more passengers who had historically been on US.

The wheels were already starting to come off at US in 2000. In that year, US lost $53 million while DL was posting a profit of $1.6 billion. 9/11 and the contemporaneous recession exposed all the weaknesses at US and the airline nearly collapsed. The hub (largely Metrojet) at BWI was gone by mid-2002. PIT was the least strategically valuable of the remaining hubs thanks to other carrier RJs and WN to smaller markets in the region, so US reduced the hub. Most of the costs of the PIT hub were fixed, though, so ultimately those fixed costs just ended up being spread across a declining number of passengers.

I can't really blame Allegheny County for the cost of the airport because they basically built the new terminal for which US management had asked. When the hub carrier goes from 500 daily flights to 200, costs per passenger are going to go up a lot. CLT would have likely faced similar cost issues if US had cut flights by over 50%. And IIRC, even at the time when US management was blaming Allegheny County for high costs at PIT, per passenger costs at PHL were actually higher than PIT.

alexrg wrote:
Looking back through history, you'll see a number of smaller cities acting as hubs for major air carriers. For example, AA had RDU, STL, and BNA (the last 2 inherited from TWA), USAirways had PIT, Northwest had MEM, and United had CLE. All of these cities have since been dehubbed. In general, the big three US airlines' hubs are all located in bigger cities, with the notable exception of AS, which has made major hubs/focus cities out of both SAN and SJC. What made these smaller hub cities unprofitable (despite them having been around for a long time), and why is AS seeming to be investing in building hubs in smaller cities as well?


(1) AS is not one of the so-called "big three."
(2) Neither SAN nor SJC is a "major hub/focus city" for AS. By departures, BOS & DCA could be considered larger "focus cities" for WN than either SAN or SJC for AS (and WN serves more cities non-stop from DCA than AS from SJC).

AS has largely been opportunistic in both SAN & SJC, mostly by adding non-stop markets which were unserved/underserved or dropped by other carriers, but which have enough traffic to support a daily or sub-daily Q400/E175/737. There are a few exceptions to that, like the SLC-SAN/SJC revenge flying or SJC-SAN/SNA. And it makes sense if they want to grow, given facilities constraints at their primary hub of SEA and limited market size at PDX.

As others have pointed out, changes in the U.S. airline market, including consolidation of the legacy/legacy-like carriers from roughly ten to four since 2000 and the widespread deployment of regional jets have significantly reduced the number of hubs needed to offer a comprehensive nationwide network. To be fair, though, I'd consider the closure of the RDU & BNA hubs to be more of a response to market changes in the late 1980's/early 1990s when EA & PA exited the market and CO underwent significant retrenchment.


Unless something has changed with the merger, I'm pretty sure AS considers both SJC and SAN to be "focus cities." They have referred to both airports that way before in press releases.
 
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flyPIT
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:55 am

ScottB wrote:
The failure of the PIT hub was not caused by LCC entry into the airport or its cost structure -- at least, the cost structure wasn't material until US had already made large cuts to its hub at the airport. I've detailed the reasons for the failure of the US hub at PIT before:

Before the mid-1990s, PIT was really the only large hub which could efficiently serve the Northeast. There was plenty of airfield so there were few constraints on air traffic, unlike the NYC airports, DCA, PHL, or BOS. IAD had plenty of airfield but the original people-mover design wasn't suitable for a connecting hub. Also keep in mind that before the mid-1990s, the regional carrier fleets consisted almost entirely of propeller aircraft, so the regional affiliates could serve markets up to perhaps 500 miles away from a hub (although a 2+-hour flight on a prop was a pretty dreadful experience for most passengers). One other point was that PIT had some advantage due to incumbency; it had been a hub going back to the Allegheny days (and was also a TWA hub at one time) so it benefited from passenger loyalty & familiarity -- and those contributed to US's dominance in the smaller Northeast markets like BUF, ROC, ALB, BTV, PWM, etc. by allowing US to offer the most desirable schedules, often on mainline aircraft. If you wanted to fly between BGR & ROC, CRW & BTV, CMH & PVD, BDL & DAY, etc., PIT was probably the most convenient choice. But... many of the markets dominated by US weren't exactly thrilled by the sky-high fares which came along with their dominance.

Two key things happened in the mid-1990s: OH started to fly CRJs from CVG to many small US-dominated markets in the Northeast (and made ginormous profits by doing so) and WN built its BWI hub right on top of the US hub which had been inherited in the PI merger. BWI was in a weird position for US because it geographically overlapped with pretty much all their other hubs and wasn't the preferred airport for the D.C. market (though it is for Baltimore, of course). But once WN started growing BWI and adding service to markets like PVD, MHT, ALB, BUF, and ISP, the lower fares in those markets were less sustainable at U.S.'s high structural costs. DL/OH also took a lot of traffic via CVG, both in the larger markets where US offered mainline service and the smaller markets where US was all or mostly prop equipment. Plus CO was flying RJs from EWR/CLE and NW from DTW to take even more passengers who had historically been on US.

The wheels were already starting to come off at US in 2000. In that year, US lost $53 million while DL was posting a profit of $1.6 billion. 9/11 and the contemporaneous recession exposed all the weaknesses at US and the airline nearly collapsed. The hub (largely Metrojet) at BWI was gone by mid-2002. PIT was the least strategically valuable of the remaining hubs thanks to other carrier RJs and WN to smaller markets in the region, so US reduced the hub. Most of the costs of the PIT hub were fixed, though, so ultimately those fixed costs just ended up being spread across a declining number of passengers.

I can't really blame Allegheny County for the cost of the airport because they basically built the new terminal for which US management had asked. When the hub carrier goes from 500 daily flights to 200, costs per passenger are going to go up a lot. CLT would have likely faced similar cost issues if US had cut flights by over 50%. And IIRC, even at the time when US management was blaming Allegheny County for high costs at PIT, per passenger costs at PHL were actually higher than PIT.


I agree with everything up until the last paragraph. USAir did not ask Allegheny County for the new terminal. Allegheny County asked USAir to agree to it. After years and years of begging and pleading USAir to agree to a lease, USAir finally (and reluctantly it seems) agreed when the condition and utility of the original terminal became so bad. A new terminal would have been needed with or without USAir. Everything you need to know about who is responsible for the decision to build the new terminal is detailed here:

http://vannevar.blogspot.com/2015/10/pit-midfield-terminal-allegheny-usair.html
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alexrg
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 2:15 am

@ Scott B: I do apologize for the error in sentence construction there-- I do not believe that AS is one of the 'big three.' I would say that there is most certainly evidence that SAN and SJC are focus cities for AS. Number of destinations served from a specific city is one easy metric by which to tell if something is or is not a hub: AS provides connections from San Diego to various small markets, including Santa Rosa, Monterrey, Steamboat Springs, and Fresno, which feed into their longer routes to destinations such as Baltimore, Boston, Honolulu, Newark, Puerto Vallarta, and Orlando. This very much resembles how a hub/focus city operates. Here's a full list of AS routes from SAN:
san-hdn,+san-smf,+san-sjc,+san-boi,+san-fat,+san-mmh,+san-mry,+san-sts,+san-slc,+san-sjd,+san-sea,+san-mco,+san-pdx,+san-bwi,+san-bos,+san-hnl,+san-ogg,+san-koa,+san-lih,+san-ewr,+san-pdx,+san-pvr
An awful lot for a non-hub airport. In addition to the structure of AS's operations at SAN, FlyFresno makes the accurate point that SAN and SJC have been referred to as focus cities in the past.
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sagechan
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:10 am

Its seems there are a few major factors of why smaller cities became hubs, especially in the midwest and then lost. Many of these cities were much more important in the past than now. The US population has been moving stradily south and west for decades goving rise to the Sunbelt cities and (more importantly here) the loss of industry and population for an extended period in the midwest.

Secondly until the latest rounds of mergers since the late 90s/early 2000s on, US carriers had much stronger regional strengths than national ones, when you have 10-12 airlines needing hubs vs 4-6 more cities get hubs. With consolidation all of which but AA/US occuring during poor economic times the biggest cost reduction strategy was to dehub less needed hubs.
717, 733, 734, 738, 744, 752, 763, 772, 77W, 789, A319, A320, A321, A332, A333, A359, MD88, CRJ, CR7, CR9, DH1, DH2, DH3, S340, ER4, E170, E175, E190/CO, NW, US, AC, NH, AA, UA, DL, WN, WS, SK, VY, LA, QF, AR, AV, MH, KA
 
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knope2001
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:56 pm

sagechan wrote:
Its seems there are a few major factors of why smaller cities became hubs, especially in the midwest and then lost. Many of these cities were much more important in the past than now. The US population has been moving stradily south and west for decades goving rise to the Sunbelt cities and (more importantly here) the loss of industry and population for an extended period in the midwest.


I really have to take exception with that for several reasons:

--Air transportation is not a finite resource like US house seats where fast-growing areas getting more necessitates slow-growing and flat-growth areas getting less.

--Per-capita air travel has grown dramatically over the decades. So even a population with flat or slight decline generally produces more travel than in the past. Population is a mediocre yardstick for judging air travel demand, but it's the one easiest for people to keep coming back to in support of the dying-rustbelt narrative.

--The narrative that major urban areas of the northeast and midwest are steadily depopulating is simply wrong. Neither have the major urban areas which lost hubs seen the sort of absolute economic decline (not relative to other places but absolute decline) which decimates air travel demand.

--Three notable hubs which opened from scratch and subsequently closed during the sunbelt population boom were in Raleigh, Nashville and San Jose. All three of those regions were already fast-growing in the 80's and 90's -- the boom is nothing new. Only Raleigh got a replacement hub (Midway) but that failed in the 00's.

--Nobody has opened a new hub in the fast-growing sunbelt in 30+ years.

--One could argue that Southwest is the hub carrier now in places like Nashville and I'd tend to agree -- but then the growth of St. Louis as a Southwest hub kills the story of northeast/midwest losing their hubs because of decline, decay and depopulation.

More than a few people see the ruins-porn pictures of the worst parts of someplace like Detroit, combine that with the steep population declines of many central cities in the past 65 years (not urban areas but the central city proper) and build a sharply incorrect narrative about the region. Vigorous growth in places like Nashville, San Jose and Raleigh didn't save their traditional banked hubs, and lower rates of growth in places like Cleveland are equally poor at explaining the loss of the hub.
 
kotoka
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:48 pm

DeltaRules wrote:
alexrg wrote:
RDU was significantly smaller of a metro in the AA hub days. The population has doubled and many companies have bases there now creating O&D now.


The funny thing is that AA still operates a nonstop flight from RDU to London-Heathrow, suggesting they know that there is enough O&D traffic from RDU to warrant an international flight no other non-AA hub gets. Strange...


Isn't/wasn't this route heavily supported by the pharmaceutical industry?


Probably not as much as it was in the past. Glaxo is not as big in the area as it used to be. Pharma is still important to the local economy, but also a factor are large IT and financial services firms with back-office operations in the Raleigh/Durham area.
 
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N717TW
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 3:03 pm

LAXdude1023 wrote:
I cannot fathom that CLE was ever, at any point, CO's most profitable hub. Not above O&D behemoths IAH and EWR and the business traffic each generate.


At a time when CO was losing a lot of money post 9/11/2001, I can easily see CLE being the best performer. Its also depends on how you are stating numbers. Back when RJs were actually lower or similar cost on an CASM basis than mainline, then CLE with true fortress hub pricing may very well have been more profitable on an ASM basis.

But as EWR ramped up in the 2000s and CO became dominate in all market segments there, there is no way CLE was a financially more important hub than EWR.
 
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:18 pm

rajincajun01 wrote:
Cubsrule wrote:
rajincajun01 wrote:
RDU was significantly smaller of a metro in the AA hub days. The population has doubled and many companies have bases there now creating O&D now.


BNA now has more passengers than it did in its hub days. Is RDU similar?


Yes, RDU was around 11 million pax in 2016. During the hub days was about 8 million if I remember correctly.


There were a few years over 10mil. 2000 and 2001 IIRC.
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USAirKid
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:44 pm

aemoreira1981 wrote:
As for cargo operations, however, I'm surprised that St. Louis hasn't tried to make a play for UPS to leave Kentucky, as St. Louis is more centrally located in the USA than Louisville, and 757 flights to Europe make a stop in Newark for fuel anyway.


On a pure geographic basis STL is more centrally located, but SDF and MEM are more centrally located on a population weighted basis. So many people are on the east coast (and subsequent package flows are there.) that moving the hub west would add more flying than it takes away.
 
SurfandSnow
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:35 pm

Road warriors are a lot smarter than most people here seem to think. Major hubs aren't just preferred by these folks because they tend to have better amenities (i.e. lounges, restaurants). Major hubs are also preferred because they tend to have better aircraft and schedules. If something goes wrong at ORD, there's probably another flight an hour or 2 later. If something goes wrong at MKE, you might be stuck waiting until the next day - or trying to frantically rebook through ORD. My dad traveled often for business from Chicago's northern suburbs and always admitted that MKE was a much nicer and more convenient experience. However, after enduring enough missed connections and other issues, he swore off using MKE due to its relative lack of flights and frequent need to connect (often via ORD).
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superjeff
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:53 pm

alexrg wrote:
RDU was significantly smaller of a metro in the AA hub days. The population has doubled and many companies have bases there now creating O&D now.


The funny thing is that AA still operates a nonstop flight from RDU to London-Heathrow, suggesting they know that there is enough O&D traffic from RDU to warrant an international flight no other non-AA hub gets. Strange...


I've actually taken that flight myself and it was full, including passengers who connected from Dallas, as well as other connections from CLT.
 
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southwest1675
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 8:04 pm

AA supposedly cut BNA due to a lack of local passengers.
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LightningZ71
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 8:24 pm

Not being an expert on this, but I have to speculate that the changing technology involved in modern aircraft has affected the size, location, and value of hubs. As of Y2K, most of the US narrow body fleet was made up of dc-9/super 80s and a mix of 727/737 classic frames. Those frames were not known for extravagant range or exceedingly low operating costs. This would seem to lead to a pattern of short stage lengths being desired over longer ones. Shorter legs mean more hubs to accommodate them, requiring more hubs to cover the US market.

Post 9/11, airlines rapidly shed their cost, older frames for more efficient narrowoodies that also had greater range. We also had the introduction of several types of new regional jets that had linger range and better efficiency. This enabling technology allowed the majors, now fewer in number, to better consolidate their hubs into markets that they controlled, or had lower landing and gate fees (those add up fast on hubs), or had specific geographical advantages.

I absolutely do not discount the O&D traffic at each place as being a factor, but, there are other factors at work. I firmly believe that improved narrow body and regional capabilities were a major enabling factor.
 
drdisque
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:13 pm

That's a good point, back then, markets that couldn't support mainline jet service were basically limited to hubs within 400 miles due to the speed and range of the available turboprops.

RJ's allowed a hub to serve a much larger area.
 
phxsanslcpdx
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:29 pm

Some very good points being made all around. Another factor to consider in the current distribution of hubs among smaller cities is momentum and cost of change. A good example is North Carolina... there's pretty strong evidence that demand is sufficient to have at least one major hub in NC (if demand were insufficient, US or AA would've shuttered Charlotte). If airlines were looking at a completely blank slate, then the choice of where to put a hub would pretty clearly come down to either CLT or RDU. And you could make a reasonable argument for either being the stronger potential hub... CLT might have a larger population and more HQs; RDU might have more government, academic, and start-up traffic... objectively viewed, neither is head-and-shoulders above the other. So why does AA have a hub at CLT and not RDU? The biggest reason is history... they've already established a large operation at CLT and defended it adequately to build tremendous brand loyalty and pricing power. Shuttering CLT and starting up a replacement hub at RDU would be expensive, and even if they thought RDU might prove marginally more profitable over time, it would take a long time to amortize that expense, and there's more risk involved in making a big expensive move like that than in just staying put.

That said, if another airline decides in the future that they want a hub in North Carolina, my money's on RDU :smile:
 
Chugach
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:31 pm

alexrg wrote:
Looking back through history, you'll see a number of smaller cities acting as hubs for major air carriers. For example, AA had RDU, STL, and BNA (the last 2 inherited from TWA), USAirways had PIT, Northwest had MEM, and United had CLE. All of these cities have since been dehubbed. In general, the big three US airlines' hubs are all located in bigger cities, with the notable exception of AS, which has made major hubs/focus cities out of both SAN and SJC. What made these smaller hub cities unprofitable (despite them having been around for a long time), and why is AS seeming to be investing in building hubs in smaller cities as well?


ANC is considered a hub for AS, and is a much smaller city than SJC or SAN.

While ANC has a lower number of daily departures than SEA or PDX (last I saw it was about on par with LAX for AS in terms of daily departures), it serves a wide variety of destinations nonstop and is also a major cargo hub for AS (and many others).

AS serves ANC from 24 cities nonstop: Adak, Barrow, Bethel, Chicago, Cordova, Dillingham, Dutch Harbor (wet lease with KS due to DUT airport challenges), Fairbanks, Honolulu, Juneau, Kahului, King Salmon, Kodiak, Kona, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nome, Phoenix, Portland, Prudhoe Bay, and Seattle (ANC-SEA is one of the busiest non-regional air corridors in the country). While a lot of that is intra-Alaska flying, most other cities with an immediate catchment area of 400-500 thousand people would be salivating at that amount of service from one carrier.
 
commavia
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:41 pm

Chugach wrote:
ANC is considered a hub for AS, and is a much smaller city than SJC or SAN.

While ANC has a lower number of daily departures than SEA or PDX (last I saw it was about on par with LAX for AS in terms of daily departures), it serves a wide variety of destinations nonstop and is also a major cargo hub for AS (and many others).

AS serves ANC from 24 cities nonstop: Adak, Barrow, Bethel, Chicago, Cordova, Dillingham, Dutch Harbor (wet lease with KS due to DUT airport challenges), Fairbanks, Honolulu, Juneau, Kahului, King Salmon, Kodiak, Kona, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nome, Phoenix, Portland, Prudhoe Bay, and Seattle (ANC-SEA is one of the busiest non-regional air corridors in the country). While a lot of that is intra-Alaska flying, most other cities with an immediate catchment area of 400-500 thousand people would be salivating at that amount of service from one carrier.


Sure, although like with most things, ANC and HNL need to be treated with a bit of an asterisk. It's a very unique and special case because of the geographical isolation of the region it serves. ANC is not only the only airport in Alaska capable of functioning as a true hub, both intra-state and between the state and the outside world, but ANC metro alone accounts for over half the state's population. It's a similar story with HNL in Hawaii. Thus, while it's certainly true that these busy airports are absolutely hubs, it's difficult to even compare them to the network dynamics that drive airline hub placement in the mainland U.S.
 
alfa164
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:46 pm

redzeppelin wrote:
I get tired of hearing the chorus that hubs need lots of O&D traffic in order to be viable. It's an example of missing the forest for the trees. From my perspective (and having lived much of my adult life in "spoke" markets), a hub is made viable by the critical mass of connecting traffic that an airline's network naturally sends there, and the resulting economy of scale.
.........
When the business model is to serve a comprehensive hub-and-spoke network, it is good to have hubs in cities with a lot of local traffic, but also VERY important to consider the number of hubs and the location of those hubs. You don't want too many hubs--you need the economy of scale that comes from centralized operations. But you don't want too few hubs--this leads to inefficient traffic flows. It's a math problem. Beyond the O&D potential, you need hub locations that can (1) minimize total distance flown and (2) maximize economies of scale while also (3) maximizing fleet utilization and (4) meeting passenger expectations of convenience and frequency. It's a delicate balance, and is not an exact science.


:checkmark: :checkmark: :checkmark: A few years ago I got into a very animated (and well-lubricated) discussion with a major airline executive; we were discussing the possibility that some airline, someday, might find the most central location in the USA - perhaps in the middle of Nebraska's cornfields - and create a huge (should that be "yugge!" now?) airport to service all its routes, domestic and international. There was some conclusion that, given cheap real estate, clear traffic patterns, and the economics of a hub operation, there was no reason why some airline couldn't do that.

As I am writing this, I am thinking that EY and QR (and, to a slightly lesser extent, EK, which does see some O&D traffic in Dubai) have probably done the international version of that. Considering the part of the world where they exist, I suspect they were not so well lubricated as we were when we were proposing it. ;)

alexrg wrote:
Looking back through history, you'll see a number of smaller cities acting as hubs for major air carriers. For example, AA had RDU, STL, and BNA (the last 2 inherited from TWA), USAirways had PIT, Northwest had MEM, and United had CLE. All of these cities have since been dehubbed. In general, the big three US airlines' hubs are all located in bigger cities, with the notable exception of AS, which has made major hubs/focus cities out of both SAN and SJC. What made these smaller hub cities unprofitable (despite them having been around for a long time), and why is AS seeming to be investing in building hubs in smaller cities as well?


Many of the hubs you mentioned - and those you haven't - were simply made redundant through mergers. Airlines who were late to the hub-and-spoke system (which, remember, did not exist even during the early days of the jet age) were left with fewer choices; once AA had DFW and ORD, UA ORD, and DL ATL, that left the late-comers (and smaller players) with the likes of STL, BNA, MEM, and CLE. When the mergers occurred, DL saw MEM as being to close to ATL to perform any function that their mega-hub couldn't do; AA saw the same with STL's proximity to ORD. UA also had a hub at ORD, so CLE, sandwiched between that major hub and EWR, no longer made sense.

The entire concept of the hub-and-spoke system presumes that, the fewer hubs that exist, the more efficient the operation will be. While the merged entities we see today among the three "legacy" airlines tend to defy that logic, some of those hubs are undoubtedly being kept because of local agreements, and the presence of many loyal (read: high-spending) customers in those cities. Given their druthers, those majors might secretly wish they could operate only one hub each - just as the ME3 + TK do today.
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Chugach
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:03 pm

alfa164 wrote:

:checkmark: :checkmark: :checkmark: A few years ago I got into a very animated (and well-lubricated) discussion with a major airline executive; we were discussing the possibility that some airline, someday, might find the most central location in the USA - perhaps in the middle of Nebraska's cornfields - and create a huge (should that be "yugge!" now?) airport to service all its routes, domestic and international. There was some conclusion that, given cheap real estate, clear traffic patterns, and the economics of a hub operation, there was no reason why some airline couldn't do that.


We have seen that to a certain extent domestically...DEN.

That's also that same model KEF uses, and the same model ANC uses for cargo. ANC isn't once of the largest cargo hubs in the world because of its scenic location, it's because ANC is less than 9 hours from 3/4 of the industrialized world. As they say in real estate, location location location!
 
ahj2000
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:36 pm

phxsanslcpdx wrote:
Some very good points being made all around. Another factor to consider in the current distribution of hubs among smaller cities is momentum and cost of change. A good example is North Carolina... there's pretty strong evidence that demand is sufficient to have at least one major hub in NC (if demand were insufficient, US or AA would've shuttered Charlotte). If airlines were looking at a completely blank slate, then the choice of where to put a hub would pretty clearly come down to either CLT or RDU. And you could make a reasonable argument for either being the stronger potential hub... CLT might have a larger population and more HQs; RDU might have more government, academic, and start-up traffic... objectively viewed, neither is head-and-shoulders above the other. So why does AA have a hub at CLT and not RDU? The biggest reason is history... they've already established a large operation at CLT and defended it adequately to build tremendous brand loyalty and pricing power. Shuttering CLT and starting up a replacement hub at RDU would be expensive, and even if they thought RDU might prove marginally more profitable over time, it would take a long time to amortize that expense, and there's more risk involved in making a big expensive move like that than in just staying put.

That said, if another airline decides in the future that they want a hub in North Carolina, my money's on RDU :smile:

DL already is starting a focus city thing...
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DFW789ER
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:49 pm

drdisque wrote:
PatrickZ80 wrote:
incitatus wrote:
Another example like Amsterdam is Atlanta - the city of Atlanta is only 460,000 people. The metro area is more than 5 million.


That's true. Another thing about Atlanta is that there hardly are any other airports in this region, so everybody from the whole wide area has to use Atlanta airport. Athens Ben Epps and Columbus are so small they hardly count as competition, certainly not for long haul flights. I think Huntsville and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth are the closest airports capable of handling long haul traffic, but they're so far away they're hardly serious alternatives.


AHN doesn't even have scheduled service anymore.

While BHM and HSV both have long runways, HSV doesn't have a FIS and I can't even find a picture of BHM's (apparently they have one as they apparently have a seasonal charter flight from Cancun).

The closest airport to ATL with a real FIS is CLT, 250 miles away by road.

Even more amazing fact: The only airports south of the DC area and East of the Mississippi and not in Florida with a FIS are ATL, BHM (questionable), BNA, MEM, CLT, and RDU. (also MSY if you consider that it's technically on the "Eastern" side of the Mississippi, but if it's disqualified then MEM should be too I guess...) - so if we exclude airports within spitting distance of the Mississippi and airports with a phantom FIS that I can't find a picture of, you just have ATL, BNA, CLT, RDU. Not an impressive list.


I believe you are incorrect concerning HSV. It does have Customs and Border protection. It has scheduled air freight service from Cargolux and Panalpina, among others.
 
drdisque
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Sat Jan 21, 2017 12:33 am

DFW789ER wrote:

I believe you are incorrect concerning HSV. It does have Customs and Border protection. It has scheduled air freight service from Cargolux and Panalpina, among others.


Just because there are customs on the field doesn't mean there is a FIS. A FIS is a facility for commercial passenger flights with more than 30 seats to go through Immigration and Customs. Lots of airports have customs on the field but no FIS.
 
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SLCUT2777
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Sun Jan 22, 2017 12:23 am

The Census Bureau's "Combined Metropolitan Statistical Area metric works better when reporting the size of SLC in that you must add PVU and OGD into the equation. When this is factored in the Wasatch Front/SLC population then goes to @2.5 million (CLT comes out @2.7 million using the same statistical table). SLC is actually #3 in the Mountain Time Zone after both PHX and DEN and would be #4 if you included nearby LAS for air travel. While its geographical positioning makes it a favorable competitor to DEN, it's isolation also comes into play.

Everyone loves to make a case that the LDS Church is such a big player in this instance, but as also eluded to, SLC is a large banking center for industrial banks. American Express/Centurion Bank which covers the DL SkyMiles card is based in SLC. But beyond that there is a growing biomedical engineering sector that has contributed to making direct flights to Europe and a lesser extent Asia (the decline of the DL NRT hub has hurt this for the time being) more likely out of SLC. Besides CDG, AMS and LHR , there has been serious discussion with LH about FRA service, and BA still could come in with a competing LHR service. Summer seasonal service to FCO is also more possible than people think. What holds SLC back in this element and other growth is the lack of facility space, especially international capable gates with FIS space & personnel. That will change over the next five years with the redevelopment of the terminals, concourses and parking structures.
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DaufuskieGuy
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Sun Jan 22, 2017 2:40 am

incitatus wrote:
FlyingHollander wrote:
PatrickZ80 wrote:
Amsterdam is a relatively small city, but still a major hub in Europe.

There are 32.5mil people in a 200k radius of AMS. That's slightly more than JFK, and doubled that of ORD. That's not exactly small. City populations are worthless for pretty much anything. Each city can chose where to put their border, making one on one comparison pretty much impossible.



Another example like Amsterdam is Atlanta - the city of Atlanta is only 460,000 people. The metro area is more than 5 million.


so many in ATL (nearly that of S. FL https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_M ... ted_States) you have to wonder if they will start commercial service to a secondary airport like Dobbins in Cobb County. I'd think AA/UA would love to be closer to the affluent northern suburbs (same reason the Braves moved).
 
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AVLAirlineFreq
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Re: Smaller Hub Cities?

Sun Jan 22, 2017 8:16 pm

IMHO, one of the things that is underplayed when looking at the populations for any airport's market is that the catchment area for a hub may be considerably larger than even the combined metropolitan statistical area. The array of available nonstop flights makes a hub much more desirable to drive further distances.

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