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PacoMartin
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 6:31 am

rbavfan wrote:
A large portion of STL passengers were kept up due to WN operations at the airport.


Perhaps the word "collapse" was too strong a word. These airports had a devestating loss of 1/3 to 1/2 their passengers. I didn't mean "collapse" in the sense that there is no recovery. In fact Southwest service at STL is now on the same order as the smallest "base of operations".

Percent of seats in May 2019 for southwest airlines relative to largest airport
100.0% Chicago–Midway
91.2% Las Vegas
90.4% Baltimore
86.9% Denver
77.6% Dallas–Love
75.9% Phoenix–Sky Harbor
69.7% Houston–Hobby
51.3% Oakland
51.2% Orlando
51.0% STL ~ Not a base of operations
50.7% Atlanta
50.6% BNA ~ Not a base of operations
50.1% Los Angeles

Southwest estimates that roughly 70% of their passengers only fly one segment length, so they don't like the term "connecting hub".
 
peterinlisbon
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 6:44 am

As aircraft efficiencies increase, we'll see more direct flights. Nobody really wants to have to change planes and wait for hours for a connection, turning a 3 hour trip into a 7 hour one. Still, they'll always be a need for hubs to channel long-distance traffic to the smaller cities. There has been a lot of consolidation in the US in terms of airlines merging together and there have been some losers and some winners. Denver seems to be one of the big winners whilst St Louis has lost out.
 
alo2yyz
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 12:16 pm

luckyone wrote:
alo2yyz wrote:
JayinKitsap wrote:
Only if someone is quite remote these days in the US (Think Skagway, Alaska) would anyone do a 2 stop.


A bit of an exaggeration, no? Try getting from Knoxville to Bellingham, for example, or State College to Roswell or Waterloo to Tyler...(and so on)

You needn't be in an Alaskan village to double-connect on a domestic US flight.

Except in several of those examples there are large airports nearby that serve those communities and are the reason there aren’t as many service options. Namely, if you’re traveling transcon from Knoxville you’re just as likely to use Nashville and/or Seattle in lieu of another stop.


TYS to BNA is 2.5 to 3 hours in good weather and good traffic. SEA to BLI is similar says Google. I'll take a double-connect over an extra, and unnecessary, 6 hours of driving.

I know for a fact that there is a LOT of corporate Trane traffic in and out of Tyler. Trane isn't telling its employees to drive to DFW. Tyler to State College is a double-connect.

CID is fine to drive to from ALO except the 6 months of the year when you risk life and limb traversing the ice planet Hoth to get there.

Another example - CIU to FAT.

OP gave the example of a literal Alaskan ghost town as the "only" example of the sort of place with double-connect. This is a slight exaggeration.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:13 pm

PHLCVGAMTK wrote:
May I ask what you mean by "PHL's smaller size"? Is that the acreage of the airfield or terminals itself, or the ATC situation, or something else? Because even though PHL is a small aviation market for a city its size (lack of O&D to both NYC and WAS pulls the numbers down), I don't think that even at the heyday of PIT that PHL was handling fewer passengers.

Yes, I was talking about the size of the airfield and the terminals. The theory of the day was to be a success you needed a green field airport with room to grow i.e. DFW, IAD, DEN, PIT, etc. Heck, even ORD was a green field airport back then. PHL is hemmed in by water and other neighbors, it simply can't get bigger. LGA is even worse. But both of these ended up being favored over the green field airports mainly because they offered O&D traffic volume to compliment transfer traffic, along with the fact that O&D traffic is more profitable than transfer traffic.

I guess I can't portray what a huge impression PIT made on the east coast travelers of its peak period. It was a first to many of us to offer a lot of things that are all now routine such as moving sidewalks, high end shopping opportunities, etc. The fact it failed is more surprising to me than the fact that the A380 failed.

Skywatcher wrote:
There are a lot of defensive, knee jerk responses on this thread. It seems that many people don't like the idea that certain hubs or hubs in general are threatened. My take on the numbers is that hub traffic in general is growing slower than "secondary" airport traffic. I for one hate transiting through hubs-they're crowded and prone to screwing up my transfers as a result of weather and/or congestion. I much prefer non-stops/hub busting. Based on the numbers listed above I am not alone.

Me too. I end up booking long in advance and/or doing some crazy red eyes just to avoid stopping.
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:33 pm

alo2yyz wrote:
TYS to BNA is 2.5 to 3 hours in good weather and good traffic. SEA to BLI is similar says Google. I'll take a double-connect over an extra, and unnecessary, 6 hours of driving.

I know for a fact that there is a LOT of corporate Trane traffic in and out of Tyler. Trane isn't telling its employees to drive to DFW. Tyler to State College is a double-connect.

CID is fine to drive to from ALO except the 6 months of the year when you risk life and limb traversing the ice planet Hoth to get there.

Another example - CIU to FAT.

OP gave the example of a literal Alaskan ghost town as the "only" example of the sort of place with double-connect. This is a slight exaggeration.

Agree there are circumstances where the double connect is a better idea, especially if someone else is paying for it.
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blockski
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:45 pm

Revelation wrote:
PHLCVGAMTK wrote:
May I ask what you mean by "PHL's smaller size"? Is that the acreage of the airfield or terminals itself, or the ATC situation, or something else? Because even though PHL is a small aviation market for a city its size (lack of O&D to both NYC and WAS pulls the numbers down), I don't think that even at the heyday of PIT that PHL was handling fewer passengers.

Yes, I was talking about the size of the airfield and the terminals. The theory of the day was to be a success you needed a green field airport with room to grow i.e. DFW, IAD, DEN, PIT, etc. Heck, even ORD was a green field airport back then. PHL is hemmed in by water and other neighbors, it simply can't get bigger. LGA is even worse. But both of these ended up being favored over the green field airports mainly because they offered O&D traffic volume to compliment transfer traffic, along with the fact that O&D traffic is more profitable than transfer traffic.

I guess I can't portray what a huge impression PIT made on the east coast travelers of its peak period. It was a first to many of us to offer a lot of things that are all now routine such as moving sidewalks, high end shopping opportunities, etc. The fact it failed is more surprising to me than the fact that the A380 failed.


Well, that gets back to my original point - the success or failure of hubs has less to do with airport facilities than it does with the broader business environment (mergers, bankruptcies, etc) - and some simple luck. PIT had an excellent facility, but the city just isn't well positioned to be a great hub - it's a bit too close to the big eastern O/D markets and not west enough to do the big east/west connections (like ORD, DTW and MSP).

For the cities with great geographic positioning as hubs (combination of location, market size, and airport facilities) we've seen plenty of airline hubs fail in places like Denver, but the airport still serves a hub function, largely because the Denver market and location isn't replaceable - but PIT is.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:57 pm

So, more consolidation and dehubbing in the future. It is a pity how fewer hubs US has with decent international connectivity for being the world's largest aviation market and the fourth-largest country by area in the world.

I doubt a more capable P2P aircraft is going to motivate US3 to start new services. LHLCC seems to be a failed concept.

May be an environmental surcharge for the additional miles unnecessarily flown to connect through a hub and weird long routing (or) even force airlines not to sell connecting tickets cheaper than non-stop tickets. Both are not acceptable practices in a free market.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:02 pm

blockski wrote:
Well, that gets back to my original point - the success or failure of hubs has less to do with airport facilities than it does with the broader business environment (mergers, bankruptcies, etc) - and some simple luck. PIT had an excellent facility, but the city just isn't well positioned to be a great hub - it's a bit too close to the big eastern O/D markets and not west enough to do the big east/west connections (like ORD, DTW and MSP).

I agree with your point, but would add in the idea that the equipment before A320/737NG became common didn't really allow for the kinds of nonstops we now see, hubbing was more or less required to feed pax from short range DC9/737/Fokker/etc onto 727/757 for longer legs, and the relatively small size of the aircraft and their loud engines didn't make places like BOS, LGA or PHL viable as hubs back then.

A quick gc-map of some of my 90s trips on USAir shows that PIT wasn't a bad location: http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=MHT-PIT-SA ... HT-PIT-SJC

The fact that I can drive to BOS and get all of these flights and more as non-stop on A320/738 and even MHT has TPA non stops has changed the way I travel.

I feel for airport planners, it can take decades to get a plan to be approved and by the time you finish much of the travel industry will have changed.

A lot of money was spend at PIT, STL, CLE, etc and the glory days did not last long enough to pay off the decades worth of debt accrued.

As you say the world has changed, and with larger, quieter and longer ranged narrow bodies the need for hubs has diminished and the value of serving O&D from their airports of choice has increased, with the airlines accepting the increased cost and operational challenges as necessary for accessing the most desirable customers.

Heck even WN has transformed itself from focusing on airports like MHT, PVD, and ISP to now focusing on BOS and LGA.
Last edited by Revelation on Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:05 pm

tlecam wrote:
SCFlyer wrote:
Chuska wrote:
This column does bring back memories of many more cities that were once hubs:

AA at BNA, RDU, and SJC
DL at CVG and MEM (MEM previously NW and even RC-Republic before that). PDX was a small hub with flights across the Pacific.
NW had a mini-hub at BIL
TW at MCI. Also had small hubs at ABQ and PIT at the start of deregulation.
CO at ELP.
US at DAY and SYR (previously PI, and Empire at SYR before that).
HP (America West) at CMH.
YX (Midwest Express) at MKE.
QQ (Reno Air) at RNO.

Some very large commuter hubs also existed in the 1980's and 1990's:
Air Midwest at MCI.
Big Sky at BIL.
CommutAir at ALB.
GP Express at GSO (during the short Continental Lite era of the mid-90's)
Mesa at ABQ.

Please feel free to add to this list!


In addition to CLE for UA, UA had "mini-hubs" at MIA (acquired from Pan Am) and before that MCO in their Southern Hub experiments that ultimately failed

UA also had "gateways" (aka Focus Cities) at SEA and JFK which was mostly local O&D international flights to NRT/LHR (and others) before UA closed those bases down and moved those flights to their hubs during bankruptcy.


Didn’t US also have a big presence at BWI? Not sure if it was a gateway or a hub or what.


BWI was a full on hub. US also attempted mini-hub at FLL which lasted about a year. You might also throw in US's MetroJet operation at IAD. They may have had 100+ flights out of IAD at one point - plus shuttle service to LGA and BOS and some EAS service (BKW, etc.).
Last edited by washingtonflyer on Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
blockski
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:20 pm

Revelation wrote:
blockski wrote:
Well, that gets back to my original point - the success or failure of hubs has less to do with airport facilities than it does with the broader business environment (mergers, bankruptcies, etc) - and some simple luck. PIT had an excellent facility, but the city just isn't well positioned to be a great hub - it's a bit too close to the big eastern O/D markets and not west enough to do the big east/west connections (like ORD, DTW and MSP).

I think you are correct, but would add in the idea that the equipment before A320/737NG became common didn't really allow for the kinds of nonstops we now see, hubbing was more or less required to feed pax from short range DC9/737/Fokker/etc onto 727/757 for longer legs.

A quick gc-map of some of my 90s trips on USAir shows that PIT wasn't a terrible hub: http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=MHT-PIT-SA ... HT-PIT-SJC

The fact that I can drive to BOS and get all of these flights and more as non-stop on A320/738 and even MHT has TPA non stops has changed the way I travel.

I feel for airport planners, it can take decades to get a plan to be approved and by the time you finish much of the travel industry will have changed.

A lot of money was spend at PIT, STL, CLE, etc and the glory days did not last long enough to pay off the decades worth of debt accrued.


Yes, I don't think PIT was a terrible hub by any means, but it wasn't such a compelling market that it demanded a hub there (the way that some markets do).

And it's true that the longer ranges for the A320 and 737 help bypass hubs for some routes, I don't think this is at all the make-or-break element for a hub like Pittsburgh; those point to point routes aren't just being served because of the capabilities of the planes, but because of the size of the market. MHT-TPA might have a direct flight, but a quick search for MHT-TPA shows connecting itineraries with connections in CLT, DCA, PHL, DTW, IAD...

What doomed PIT was that US Airways had too many hub-ish operations too close together without the local markets to support that level of service. Add in some external shocks (9/11, bankruptcies, mergers) and the hub is gone - with no one jumping in to replace that connecting operation.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:35 pm

rbavfan wrote:
blockski wrote:
Hubs don't just 'collapse' absent some broader change in the industry.

CLE - casualty of the UA/CO merger
STL - casualty of TWA's bankruptcy and subsequent acquisition by AA.
PIT - casualty of several mergers and bankruptcies


A large portion of STL passengers were kept up due to WN operations at the airport.


This and WN was already investing in STL prior to the collapse of TWA. They had room to expand. They're now at about 25% connecting traffic and even with the MAX issues this year, STL will be close to topping 16Million.

On the broader subject, it's not that hubs are disappearing or collapsing, but the industry is in a position right now to fly more point-to-point. The cost of fuel, technology, passenger demand, etc has allowed airlines like Allegiant and Spirit to thrive on this type of traffic.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:56 pm

I don't think this has anything to do with HUBS per say but large airport growth rates vs smaller airport growth rates.

Its is called diminishing returns. The large airports by and large already fly to all the places they need to fly. The smaller airports have the growth potential. Just a naturally occurring phenomenon.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 4:11 pm

blockski wrote:
And it's true that the longer ranges for the A320 and 737 help bypass hubs for some routes, I don't think this is at all the make-or-break element for a hub like Pittsburgh; those point to point routes aren't just being served because of the capabilities of the planes, but because of the size of the market. MHT-TPA might have a direct flight, but a quick search for MHT-TPA shows connecting itineraries with connections in CLT, DCA, PHL, DTW, IAD...

To me the game changer isn't the MHT-TPA flight, the game changer is that I can get non-stops to all kinds of different places just by driving to BOS. Heck even in the old days BOS was largely a spoke to hubs like PIT, along with a few mid-con/trans-con flights on larger trunk routes such as ORD and DFW. Now with A32x/B737 doing trans-cons I can find non stops from BOS to all kinds of places that never were non stops. In turn this has forced airlines such as WN to draw down places like MHT since people value the non stop and the competitive environment and choices during IROPS so much they will deal with BOS traffic, whereas in the old days you were much more likely to hit a hub no matter where you departed from so there was not much incentive to deal with BOS traffic.
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 4:32 pm

Revelation wrote:
blockski wrote:
And it's true that the longer ranges for the A320 and 737 help bypass hubs for some routes, I don't think this is at all the make-or-break element for a hub like Pittsburgh; those point to point routes aren't just being served because of the capabilities of the planes, but because of the size of the market. MHT-TPA might have a direct flight, but a quick search for MHT-TPA shows connecting itineraries with connections in CLT, DCA, PHL, DTW, IAD...

To me the game changer isn't the MHT-TPA flight, the game changer is that I can get non-stops to all kinds of different places just by driving to BOS. Heck even in the old days BOS was largely a spoke to hubs like PIT, along with a few mid-con/trans-con flights on larger trunk routes such as ORD and DFW. Now with A32x/B737 doing trans-cons I can find non stops from BOS to all kinds of places that never were non stops. In turn this has forced airlines such as WN to draw down places like MHT since people value the non stop and the competitive environment and choices during IROPS so much they will deal with BOS traffic, whereas in the old days you were much more likely to hit a hub no matter where you departed from so there was not much incentive to deal with BOS traffic.


While this is true, I don't think this is the reason WN has drawn down MHT in favor of BOS; WN's cost structure has changed and they need the higher yield of the central airports - their old strategy of using secondary airports had limits, and they had hit those limits. WN didn't draw down MHT in the face of competition from other airlines out of BOS, but because of their own entry into BOS.

The other thing that the personal anecdotes miss is the aggregate stats - while you might feel like you always had to connect no matter what and now have more non-stop options, the reality is that lots of flights still connect; hubs are still powerful connectors, even with more non-stop routes available.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 4:34 pm

LAX isn’t a true connecting “hub” in the same sense as ATL or ORD or MSP, etc. It’s more like a glorified focus city for the big 4 airlines, with it being the second largest city in the US, LAX is in a unique position. I don’t see much changing there, either. It will always be a good jumping point to places like Hawaii and Asia and Australia.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 5:15 pm

blockski wrote:
While this is true, I don't think this is the reason WN has drawn down MHT in favor of BOS; WN's cost structure has changed and they need the higher yield of the central airports - their old strategy of using secondary airports had limits, and they had hit those limits. WN didn't draw down MHT in the face of competition from other airlines out of BOS, but because of their own entry into BOS.

I don't think WN was voluntarily taking less profit by operating MHT, I would suggest that they would want to maximize profit even before their cost base rose. I think before we had industry consolidation there simply was not the room at the primary coastal airports such as BOS, LGA and PHL to accommodate WN so they went for secondary airports. This fit the rest of their business model of serving HOU, DAL, MDW, etc. B6 was something of a tend setter by showing one could operate a LCC at an airport like JFK and make money doing so, but they did so by using JFK slots at underutilized periods of the day. Once the Big 6 became the Big 3 then more space became available at BOS, LGA, and PHL along with other similar airports. B6 jumped on the growth opportunity faster than WN did at the airports I'm most familiar with, and once customers saw that competitive pressure was driving down prices and driving up choices they were not so interested in secondary airport service.

I guess we are agreeing about the end result but disagreeing on the cause. IMO WN was a late comer to the game and did have to draw down their secondary airport operations to offer enough destinations and frequencies to compete with B6 and the Big 3 at the central airports. Customers were voting with their feet and WN ended up having no choice but go where the business was. Once they ramped down the secondary airports it made their cost base go up even higher at those airports and their presence at the central airports added even more choice and competitive pressure to those airports, creating a positive feedback loop that continues at many airports to this day. It's far from universal, though. We see WN still flies a lot out of HOU, DAL, MDW, BWI, etc. and BWI is a de-facto hub for the East Coast.
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 5:33 pm

blockski wrote:
Yes, I don't think PIT was a terrible hub by any means, but it wasn't such a compelling market that it demanded a hub there (the way that some markets do).


If we look at average miles to the 29 Large airports (FAA classification), PIT and ORD are nearly identical.
PIT 977 miles
ORD 976 miles
DEN 1178 miles
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 7:16 pm

PacoMartin wrote:
If we look at average miles to the 29 Large airports (FAA classification), PIT and ORD are nearly identical.
PIT 977 miles
ORD 976 miles


Underlying table of ranges
Airpt : ORD | PIT | DTW
avg. : 976.2 | 976.9 | 1002.0
SFO : 1846 | 2254 | 2079
LAX : 1744 | 2136 | 1979
PDX : 1739 | 2148 | 1953
SAN : 1723 | 2106 | 1956
SEA : 1721 | 2125 | 1927
LAS : 1514 | 1910 | 1749
PHX : 1440 | 1814 | 1671
SLC : 1250 | 1660 | 1481
MIA : 1197 | 1013 | 1145
FLL : 1182 | 994 | 1127
TPA : 1011 | 873 | 983
MCO : 1005 | 834 | 957
IAH : 925 | 1117 | 1075
DEN : 888 | 1290 | 1123
BOS : 867 | 496 | 632
DFW : 801 | 1067 | 986
JFK : 740 | 340 | 509
LGA : 733 | 335 | 502
EWR : 719 | 319 | 488
PHL : 678 | 268 | 453
BWI : 621 | 210 | 409
DCA : 612 | 204 | 405
ATL : 606 | 526 | 594
CLT : 599 | 366 | 500
IAD : 588 | 182 | 383
MSP : 334 | 726 | 528
DTW : 235 | 201 | ---
MDW : 15 | 402 | 228
ORD : --- | 413 | 235
 
PhilMcCrackin
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:24 pm

Cubsrule wrote:
I don't understand the idea of "maturation." PIT died because its costs were out of control and US chose PHL. CLE died because of the CO/UA merger. STL died because of the Great Recession. Indeed, AA said STL was profitable as recently as 2007 or 2008. What "maturation" are we discussing?


The "Great Recession" might have been the final nail in the coffin, but the decline started way before that in November 2003 when AA slashed half its flights overnight.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:30 pm

PhilMcCrackin wrote:
Cubsrule wrote:
I don't understand the idea of "maturation." PIT died because its costs were out of control and US chose PHL. CLE died because of the CO/UA merger. STL died because of the Great Recession. Indeed, AA said STL was profitable as recently as 2007 or 2008. What "maturation" are we discussing?


The "Great Recession" might have been the final nail in the coffin, but the decline started way before that in November 2003 when AA slashed half its flights overnight.


There was a cut in 2003, but AA said publicly that the hub was profitable in its mid-decade state. It’s a bit unusual in that cuts usually beget further cuts, but the hub was probably toast in 2009 regardless of its size then.
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:03 pm

Cubsrule wrote:

There was a cut in 2003, but AA said publicly that the hub was profitable in its mid-decade state. It’s a bit unusual in that cuts usually beget further cuts, but the hub was probably toast in 2009 regardless of its size then.


The interesting thing about PIT/STL drawdowns was the situation both AA and US found themselves in around the same time frame. For AA STL squeezed between ORD and to a lesser extent DFW. For US PIT very close to the larger metro of PHL. About the same distance STL to ORD vs. PIT to PHL. I hypothesized back then that if AA and US swapped the STL and PIT hubs, US would have gotten the mid-continent hub they lacked and AA the N.E. hub they lacked. Way too messy of course and in the end with the AA/US merger the result would have most likely been the same. But who knows? Kind of fun to think about.
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:50 pm

Cubsrule wrote:
PhilMcCrackin wrote:
Cubsrule wrote:
I don't understand the idea of "maturation." PIT died because its costs were out of control and US chose PHL. CLE died because of the CO/UA merger. STL died because of the Great Recession. Indeed, AA said STL was profitable as recently as 2007 or 2008. What "maturation" are we discussing?


The "Great Recession" might have been the final nail in the coffin, but the decline started way before that in November 2003 when AA slashed half its flights overnight.


There was a cut in 2003, but AA said publicly that the hub was profitable in its mid-decade state. It’s a bit unusual in that cuts usually beget further cuts, but the hub was probably toast in 2009 regardless of its size then.


The end of PIT, CLE, CVG, and STL was slightly different for each.

PIT-Too many hubs on the East Coast, US was very late to the RJ game, rise of international connecting flows which favored PHL, high fixed costs with respect to the new terminal, rise of Southwest at BWI eating yields in core Northeast and Mid Atlantic markets, 9/11 effects. PIT did really need a new terminal by when it was built, and the fixed costs were way to high to turn it into a sort of MEM of the Northeast.

CLE-UA/CO merger, decline of the RJ, new pilot rules requiring higher hours, O'Hare modernization project allowing easier and more reliable flows. Rumordly still reasonably profitable even when they closed it.

CVG-DL/NW merger; better int'l traffic flows at DTW (especially transpac), decline of RJ operating economics, even the rise of ATL as the first true superhub just to it's South. DL wanted to redeploy CVG capacity to JFK, ATL, and a much lesser extent SLC.

STL-More than anything, I'm convinced that the O'Hare modernization project is what really killed STL. It was bought as an ORD reliever, and now ORD doesn't need the relief. 9/11 and the big WN operation didn't help things either.
 
alasizon
Posts: 2050
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:57 pm

Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 10:24 pm

IPFreely wrote:
I agree no major hubs are "collapsing" anytime soon. Especially with airlines in an extended period of nearly unprecedented growth. Maybe the question should be reworded as "which hubs are the most vulnerable in a future recession?" In that case it's probably:

AA
1. LAX/PHX (consolidate to one)


The problem with this theory every time it comes up besides demand factors is space, neither LAX nor PHX have room to accommodate each others flights. LAX can't just absorb a 250-300 flight operation and PHX has nowhere to place the WB aircraft that LAX sees. The two work in tandem and there is no reason AA would leave a moderately profitable hub (PHX) for a break-even hub and no reason for them to leave a high-premium and corporate demand market (LAX) for a more domestic one.
Manager on Duty & Tower Planner
 
strfyr51
Posts: 4054
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:04 pm

Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 11:41 pm

PacoMartin wrote:
In the past CLE, PIT and STL were once thriving air hubs and have at one time collapsed.

At present (2017-2018) the 30 Large airports in the US are growing at 4% which is slightly lower than the 5% of commercial traffic growth (measured by number of passengers). The 31 Medium airports and 69 Small airports are growing at almost double the rate (by percentage). Absolute numbers for the growth by 42.7 million passengers favor the larger airports.

24,663,801 Large 4.0% 30
10,892,661 Medium 7.8% 31
5,844,328 Small 8.3% 69
1,351,250 Non 4.6% 265
7,012 Service 1.2% 123
42,759,052 Total 5.0% 518

Percentage growth for the 30 Large Airports follows:
FLL 11.35% (also largest growth in absolute numbers 1,795,288 passengers)
SAN 9.28%
TPA 8.59%
IAH 7.93%
MCO 7.59%
PHL 7.16%
BOS 6.65%
SEA 6.12%
EWR 5.69%
IAD 5.42%
SLC 5.26%
DEN 5.21%
PDX 3.91%
JFK 3.68%
LAX 3.38%
ORD 3.32%
SFO 3.31%
ATL 3.21%
DFW 3.16%
BWI 3.05%
LGA 3.04%
HNL 2.80%
DTW 2.35%
PHX 2.06%
LAS 1.84%
MIA 1.51%
CLT 1.23%
MSP -0.26%
DCA -1.21%
MDW -2.14%

Although three airports shrank slightly, there seems to be no hubs on the verge of collapse.

There are critics. Some financial analysts believe that United should move out of Washington Dulles in favor of Newark since having two hubs only 211 miles apart is counterproductive. But United executives strongly disagree that abandoning the capital is a good idea.

Has the industry matured past the point where airports collapse as hubs?

EWR is already near capacity which made IAD a perfect place to add capacity. There was never a need for IAD to be reduced.
 
strfyr51
Posts: 4054
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:04 pm

Re: Collapsing US hubs

Tue Dec 03, 2019 11:57 pm

Revelation wrote:
blockski wrote:
Well, that gets back to my original point - the success or failure of hubs has less to do with airport facilities than it does with the broader business environment (mergers, bankruptcies, etc) - and some simple luck. PIT had an excellent facility, but the city just isn't well positioned to be a great hub - it's a bit too close to the big eastern O/D markets and not west enough to do the big east/west connections (like ORD, DTW and MSP).

I agree with your point, but would add in the idea that the equipment before A320/737NG became common didn't really allow for the kinds of nonstops we now see, hubbing was more or less required to feed pax from short range DC9/737/Fokker/etc onto 727/757 for longer legs, and the relatively small size of the aircraft and their loud engines didn't make places like BOS, LGA or PHL viable as hubs back then.

A quick gc-map of some of my 90s trips on USAir shows that PIT wasn't a bad location: http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=MHT-PIT-SA ... HT-PIT-SJC

The fact that I can drive to BOS and get all of these flights and more as non-stop on A320/738 and even MHT has TPA non stops has changed the way I travel.

I feel for airport planners, it can take decades to get a plan to be approved and by the time you finish much of the travel industry will have changed.

A lot of money was spend at PIT, STL, CLE, etc and the glory days did not last long enough to pay off the decades worth of debt accrued.

As you say the world has changed, and with larger, quieter and longer ranged narrow bodies the need for hubs has diminished and the value of serving O&D from their airports of choice has increased, with the airlines accepting the increased cost and operational challenges as necessary for accessing the most desirable customers.

Heck even WN has transformed itself from focusing on airports like MHT, PVD, and ISP to now focusing on BOS and LGA.

PIT, STL, and CLE were and are still viable cities as hubs, But! the Airlines who made them famous like USAir, TWA and Continental are no longer around and the cities do not fit the mold of American to which both USAir and TWA belong to and United to which Continental belongs to. That does not mean the cities are or were bad hubs. It just means that they won't be in the forefront of the big 3 of Delta, United or American. They are still viable hubs for any other airline but they'd have to have the moxie to go there and set up shop.
 
N649DL
Posts: 615
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:04 am

tlecam wrote:
SCFlyer wrote:
Chuska wrote:
This column does bring back memories of many more cities that were once hubs:

AA at BNA, RDU, and SJC
DL at CVG and MEM (MEM previously NW and even RC-Republic before that). PDX was a small hub with flights across the Pacific.
NW had a mini-hub at BIL
TW at MCI. Also had small hubs at ABQ and PIT at the start of deregulation.
CO at ELP.
US at DAY and SYR (previously PI, and Empire at SYR before that).
HP (America West) at CMH.
YX (Midwest Express) at MKE.
QQ (Reno Air) at RNO.

Some very large commuter hubs also existed in the 1980's and 1990's:
Air Midwest at MCI.
Big Sky at BIL.
CommutAir at ALB.
GP Express at GSO (during the short Continental Lite era of the mid-90's)
Mesa at ABQ.

Please feel free to add to this list!


In addition to CLE for UA, UA had "mini-hubs" at MIA (acquired from Pan Am) and before that MCO in their Southern Hub experiments that ultimately failed

UA also had "gateways" (aka Focus Cities) at SEA and JFK which was mostly local O&D international flights to NRT/LHR (and others) before UA closed those bases down and moved those flights to their hubs during bankruptcy.


Didn’t US also have a big presence at BWI? Not sure if it was a gateway or a hub or what.


BWI was a large hub for US until the Early 2000s actually
 
IPFreely
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:44 am

alasizon wrote:
IPFreely wrote:
I agree no major hubs are "collapsing" anytime soon. Especially with airlines in an extended period of nearly unprecedented growth. Maybe the question should be reworded as "which hubs are the most vulnerable in a future recession?" In that case it's probably:

AA
1. LAX/PHX (consolidate to one)


The problem with this theory every time it comes up besides demand factors is space, neither LAX nor PHX have room to accommodate each others flights. LAX can't just absorb a 250-300 flight operation and PHX has nowhere to place the WB aircraft that LAX sees. The two work in tandem and there is no reason AA would leave a moderately profitable hub (PHX) for a break-even hub and no reason for them to leave a high-premium and corporate demand market (LAX) for a more domestic one.


That's why the statement is which hubs are vulnerable in a future recession. In a future recession a moderately profitable hub today is likely to become unprofitable. And in a future recession the reduced demand will not require 250-300 flights.
 
alasizon
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:50 am

IPFreely wrote:
alasizon wrote:
IPFreely wrote:
I agree no major hubs are "collapsing" anytime soon. Especially with airlines in an extended period of nearly unprecedented growth. Maybe the question should be reworded as "which hubs are the most vulnerable in a future recession?" In that case it's probably:

AA
1. LAX/PHX (consolidate to one)


The problem with this theory every time it comes up besides demand factors is space, neither LAX nor PHX have room to accommodate each others flights. LAX can't just absorb a 250-300 flight operation and PHX has nowhere to place the WB aircraft that LAX sees. The two work in tandem and there is no reason AA would leave a moderately profitable hub (PHX) for a break-even hub and no reason for them to leave a high-premium and corporate demand market (LAX) for a more domestic one.


That's why the statement is which hubs are vulnerable in a future recession. In a future recession a moderately profitable hub today is likely to become unprofitable. And in a future recession the reduced demand will not require 250-300 flights.


So you're saying that when that moderately profitable hub is hit by a recession it will become unprofitable but the current break-even hub will suddenly become profitable as you move more flights to it? Come on...
Manager on Duty & Tower Planner
 
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usdcaguy
Posts: 1387
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:22 am

Chuska wrote:
This column does bring back memories of many more cities that were once hubs:

AA at BNA, RDU, and SJC
DL at CVG and MEM (MEM previously NW and even RC-Republic before that). PDX was a small hub with flights across the Pacific.
NW had a mini-hub at BIL
TW at MCI. Also had small hubs at ABQ and PIT at the start of deregulation.
CO at ELP.
US at DAY and SYR (previously PI, and Empire at SYR before that).
HP (America West) at CMH.
YX (Midwest Express) at MKE.
QQ (Reno Air) at RNO.

Some very large commuter hubs also existed in the 1980's and 1990's:
Air Midwest at MCI.
Big Sky at BIL.
CommutAir at ALB.
GP Express at GSO (during the short Continental Lite era of the mid-90's)
Mesa at ABQ.

Please feel free to add to this list!


Don't forget Air Midwest's hub and headquarters at ICT. For years, they had crew scheduling if not more there after it stopped flying under its own code. Always wished I could have flown them as a kid, but they were generally too expensive for my family to use for travel within the region.
 
IPFreely
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:06 am

alasizon wrote:
So you're saying that when that moderately profitable hub is hit by a recession it will become unprofitable but the current break-even hub will suddenly become profitable as you move more flights to it? Come on...


Wow, you are totally confused.
 
SurfandSnow
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:07 am

As Americans continue to cluster themselves in 20 or so major metropolitan areas, we will probably see fewer and fewer connecting passengers relative to nonstop passengers. Never mind the fact that planes with 75-100 seats can fly 2-3x farther today than planes of similar size in years past, when flyover country hubs like CLE, MEM and STL flourished. Even in the days when lower load factors were more tolerable, many hub operations failed. BNA, COS, MCI, RDU and SJC spring to mind.

Today, folks in Nashville might not have feeder services to places like BHM, SDF, etc. But they certainly do have nonstop services to popular destinations like AUS, ECP, SAN and SAV. I daresay O&D travelers in a market like BNA have better flight options today than they did back in the AA hub days...
Flying in the middle seat of coach is much better than not flying at all!
 
airzona11
Posts: 1588
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:49 am

dtw2hyd wrote:
So, more consolidation and dehubbing in the future. It is a pity how fewer hubs US has with decent international connectivity for being the world's largest aviation market and the fourth-largest country by area in the world.

I doubt a more capable P2P aircraft is going to motivate US3 to start new services. LHLCC seems to be a failed concept.

May be an environmental surcharge for the additional miles unnecessarily flown to connect through a hub and weird long routing (or) even force airlines not to sell connecting tickets cheaper than non-stop tickets. Both are not acceptable practices in a free market.


Not that I agree with your assertion, but isn’t a hub and spoke model far more “efficient” versus a decentralized p2p model?
 
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ChaseCLT
Posts: 19
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:03 am

tlecam wrote:
SCFlyer wrote:
Chuska wrote:
This column does bring back memories of many more cities that were once hubs:

AA at BNA, RDU, and SJC
DL at CVG and MEM (MEM previously NW and even RC-Republic before that). PDX was a small hub with flights across the Pacific.
NW had a mini-hub at BIL
TW at MCI. Also had small hubs at ABQ and PIT at the start of deregulation.
CO at ELP.
US at DAY and SYR (previously PI, and Empire at SYR before that).
HP (America West) at CMH.
YX (Midwest Express) at MKE.
QQ (Reno Air) at RNO.

Some very large commuter hubs also existed in the 1980's and 1990's:
Air Midwest at MCI.
Big Sky at BIL.
CommutAir at ALB.
GP Express at GSO (during the short Continental Lite era of the mid-90's)
Mesa at ABQ.

Please feel free to add to this list!


In addition to CLE for UA, UA had "mini-hubs" at MIA (acquired from Pan Am) and before that MCO in their Southern Hub experiments that ultimately failed

UA also had "gateways" (aka Focus Cities) at SEA and JFK which was mostly local O&D international flights to NRT/LHR (and others) before UA closed those bases down and moved those flights to their hubs during bankruptcy.


Didn’t US also have a big presence at BWI? Not sure if it was a gateway or a hub or what.


Yes. And a hub at FLL I believe. LGA, PIT, PHL, BWI, DCA, BOS, CLT and FLL and I believe some point to point east coast. HQ was right across the Potomac in Crystal City. Very much an east coast airline.
 
FlyingElvii
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:03 am

blockski wrote:
Revelation wrote:
blockski wrote:
And it's true that the longer ranges for the A320 and 737 help bypass hubs for some routes, I don't think this is at all the make-or-break element for a hub like Pittsburgh; those point to point routes aren't just being served because of the capabilities of the planes, but because of the size of the market. MHT-TPA might have a direct flight, but a quick search for MHT-TPA shows connecting itineraries with connections in CLT, DCA, PHL, DTW, IAD...

To me the game changer isn't the MHT-TPA flight, the game changer is that I can get non-stops to all kinds of different places just by driving to BOS. Heck even in the old days BOS was largely a spoke to hubs like PIT, along with a few mid-con/trans-con flights on larger trunk routes such as ORD and DFW. Now with A32x/B737 doing trans-cons I can find non stops from BOS to all kinds of places that never were non stops. In turn this has forced airlines such as WN to draw down places like MHT since people value the non stop and the competitive environment and choices during IROPS so much they will deal with BOS traffic, whereas in the old days you were much more likely to hit a hub no matter where you departed from so there was not much incentive to deal with BOS traffic.


While this is true, I don't think this is the reason WN has drawn down MHT in favor of BOS; WN's cost structure has changed and they need the higher yield of the central airports - their old strategy of using secondary airports had limits, and they had hit those limits. WN didn't draw down MHT in the face of competition from other airlines out of BOS, but because of their own entry into BOS.

The other thing that the personal anecdotes miss is the aggregate stats - while you might feel like you always had to connect no matter what and now have more non-stop options, the reality is that lots of flights still connect; hubs are still powerful connectors, even with more non-stop routes available.

Cost structures have changed dramatically since Clinton’s Airline “reform” of the early 90’s. Smaller hubs were supported by smaller planes, that could make money even on segmented fares. Hubs like Memphis or CVG were supported by hundreds of smaller planes that made wheelbarrows full of cash flying Saab’s or EMB-120’s on short-haul routes. A Saab running a route like IND-BNA or CVG-MKE only needed 4-5 full Y pax to break even, everything above that was gravy.

The poor and scary press about “prop planes that fall out of the sky”, and the introduction of Regional jets quickly changed the equations. But, as operators quickly found out, making money on RJ’s was far more difficult, requiring much bigger loads to break even. Then the rise in fuel prices, combined with 9/11 and the increased costs that followed, spelled the end of small hubs.
 
FlyingElvii
Posts: 437
Joined: Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:53 pm

Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:23 am

usdcaguy wrote:
Chuska wrote:
This column does bring back memories of many more cities that were once hubs:

AA at BNA, RDU, and SJC
DL at CVG and MEM (MEM previously NW and even RC-Republic before that). PDX was a small hub with flights across the Pacific.
NW had a mini-hub at BIL
TW at MCI. Also had small hubs at ABQ and PIT at the start of deregulation.
CO at ELP.
US at DAY and SYR (previously PI, and Empire at SYR before that).
HP (America West) at CMH.
YX (Midwest Express) at MKE.
QQ (Reno Air) at RNO.

Some very large commuter hubs also existed in the 1980's and 1990's:
Air Midwest at MCI.
Big Sky at BIL.
CommutAir at ALB.
GP Express at GSO (during the short Continental Lite era of the mid-90's)
Mesa at ABQ.

Please feel free to add to this list!


Don't forget Air Midwest's hub and headquarters at ICT. For years, they had crew scheduling if not more there after it stopped flying under its own code. Always wished I could have flown them as a kid, but they were generally too expensive for my family to use for travel within the region.


The Dayton hub was Originally piedmont and was surprisingly very successful, until USAir and their problematic labor relations came along. along with Syracuse.
USAir built up IND as a hub for many years, but let that go when they acquired Piedmont. Even earlier, they had tried STL.

Ozark and Midway both tried to build Philly, but failed. Republic also built up PHX into a hub after the Hughes acquisition.

Midwest Express had a really nice operation at MKE, later trying to build a second hub at MCI before settling on Omaha.
MCI had at various times Branniff, Branniff II, TWA, Eastern, Vanguard, USAir, and Midwest Express all trying to build hubs or focus city operations. Midway II did well at RDU until 9/11 hit. Even Greensboro has been tried a few times, by CO Lite, Metrojet, and later Eastwind.

Orlando has been tried several times, most notably by Delta, and before that, Florida Express. An FLL hub has been tried numerous times by many different carriers over the years. All eventually failed, until JetBlue and Spirit came along. Same for San Juan

Farther west you had Texas Intl and Muse at MSY. Reno at RNO, and later SJC. Horizon tried building BOI at one point.
 
USAirALB
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 7:15 am

luckyone wrote:
alo2yyz wrote:
JayinKitsap wrote:
Only if someone is quite remote these days in the US (Think Skagway, Alaska) would anyone do a 2 stop.


A bit of an exaggeration, no? Try getting from Knoxville to Bellingham, for example, or State College to Roswell or Waterloo to Tyler...(and so on)

You needn't be in an Alaskan village to double-connect on a domestic US flight.

Except in several of those examples there are large airports nearby that serve those communities and are the reason there aren’t as many service options. Namely, if you’re traveling transcon from Knoxville you’re just as likely to use Nashville and/or Seattle in lieu of another stop.

There are several medium-sized cities on both the East and West coast where you have to double connect to get to certain destinations on the opposite coast. These cities usually have services to airline hubs on each coast but lack service to Texan/Midwestern/Inter-Mountain hubs. I wouldn't consider SBA a tiny remote city, but if I wanted to get to ALB tomorrow from SBA I would have to double-connect.
RJ85, F70, E135, E140, E145, E70, E75, E90, CR2, CR7, CR9, 717, 732, 733, 734, 735, 73G, 738, 739, 744, 752, 753, 762, 772, 77E, 77W, 789, 319, 320, 321, 332, 333, 343, 359, 388
 
Mboyle1988
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 8:37 am

SurfandSnow wrote:
As Americans continue to cluster themselves in 20 or so major metropolitan areas, we will probably see fewer and fewer connecting passengers relative to nonstop passengers. Never mind the fact that planes with 75-100 seats can fly 2-3x farther today than planes of similar size in years past, when flyover country hubs like CLE, MEM and STL flourished. Even in the days when lower load factors were more tolerable, many hub operations failed. BNA, COS, MCI, RDU and SJC spring to mind.

Today, folks in Nashville might not have feeder services to places like BHM, SDF, etc. But they certainly do have nonstop services to popular destinations like AUS, ECP, SAN and SAV. I daresay O&D travelers in a market like BNA have better flight options today than they did back in the AA hub days...



Wow. Americans are not clustering in 20 metro areas. Perhaps Ivy educated coastal elites are. But not the majority of the population by any stretch.
 
dampfnudel
Posts: 456
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 9:56 am

PacoMartin wrote:
In the past CLE, PIT and STL were once thriving air hubs and have at one time collapsed.

At present (2017-2018) the 30 Large airports in the US are growing at 4% which is slightly lower than the 5% of commercial traffic growth (measured by number of passengers). The 31 Medium airports and 69 Small airports are growing at almost double the rate (by percentage). Absolute numbers for the growth by 42.7 million passengers favor the larger airports.

24,663,801 Large 4.0% 30
10,892,661 Medium 7.8% 31
5,844,328 Small 8.3% 69
1,351,250 Non 4.6% 265
7,012 Service 1.2% 123
42,759,052 Total 5.0% 518

Percentage growth for the 30 Large Airports follows:
FLL 11.35% (also largest growth in absolute numbers 1,795,288 passengers)
SAN 9.28%
TPA 8.59%
IAH 7.93%
MCO 7.59%
PHL 7.16%
BOS 6.65%
SEA 6.12%
EWR 5.69%
IAD 5.42%
SLC 5.26%
DEN 5.21%
PDX 3.91%
JFK 3.68%
LAX 3.38%
ORD 3.32%
SFO 3.31%
ATL 3.21%
DFW 3.16%
BWI 3.05%
LGA 3.04%
HNL 2.80%
DTW 2.35%
PHX 2.06%
LAS 1.84%
MIA 1.51%
CLT 1.23%
MSP -0.26%
DCA -1.21%
MDW -2.14%

Although three airports shrank slightly, there seems to be no hubs on the verge of collapse.

There are critics. Some financial analysts believe that United should move out of Washington Dulles in favor of Newark since having two hubs only 211 miles apart is counterproductive. But United executives strongly disagree that abandoning the capital is a good idea.

Has the industry matured past the point where airports collapse as hubs?

The United executives are right, it would be a boneheaded decision to give up IAD.
A313 332 343 B703 712 722 732 73G 738 739 741 742 744 752 762 76E 764 772 AT5 CR9 D10 DHH DHT F27 GRM L10 M83 TU5

AA AI CO CL DE DL EA HA KL LH N7 PA PQ SK RO TW UA YR
 
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tlecam
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 10:37 am

Mboyle1988 wrote:
SurfandSnow wrote:
As Americans continue to cluster themselves in 20 or so major metropolitan areas, we will probably see fewer and fewer connecting passengers relative to nonstop passengers. Never mind the fact that planes with 75-100 seats can fly 2-3x farther today than planes of similar size in years past, when flyover country hubs like CLE, MEM and STL flourished. Even in the days when lower load factors were more tolerable, many hub operations failed. BNA, COS, MCI, RDU and SJC spring to mind.

Today, folks in Nashville might not have feeder services to places like BHM, SDF, etc. But they certainly do have nonstop services to popular destinations like AUS, ECP, SAN and SAV. I daresay O&D travelers in a market like BNA have better flight options today than they did back in the AA hub days...



Wow. Americans are not clustering in 20 metro areas. Perhaps Ivy educated coastal elites are. But not the majority of the population by any stretch.


It is absolutely a long term, macro-economic trend for Americans to be migrating away from rural and far suburban areas to be nearer to major job centers, the vast majority of which are in metropolitan areas.

This is largely a multi-decade reversion to the norm, reversing the effects of the New Deal, post-WW2.
BOS-LGA-JFK | A:319/20/21, 332/3, 346 || B:717, 735, 737, 738, 739, 752, 753, 762, 763, 764, 787, 772, 744 || MD80, MD90
 
dtw2hyd
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:27 pm

airzona11 wrote:
...
Not that I agree with your assertion, but isn’t a hub and spoke model far more “efficient” versus a decentralized p2p model?


Just for brainstorming sake

How is flying a passenger a few hundred-miles detour more efficient than a p2p.

Wasted fuel
Airport fees at the transit airport
Have to sell tickets cheap compared to non-stops

I think the only advantage a hub gives is higher crew utilization. With today's outsourced MX and GHAs, one can operate any frame from point A-point B without much investment. Crew utilization is still an issue with p2p.

Lack of capable NBs was one of the reasons, hubs with WBs gained popularity. That will change very quickly. It takes only one of the majors to abandon the obsessive hub routing model. The rest have to follow.
 
blockski
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:29 pm

strfyr51 wrote:
Revelation wrote:
blockski wrote:
Well, that gets back to my original point - the success or failure of hubs has less to do with airport facilities than it does with the broader business environment (mergers, bankruptcies, etc) - and some simple luck. PIT had an excellent facility, but the city just isn't well positioned to be a great hub - it's a bit too close to the big eastern O/D markets and not west enough to do the big east/west connections (like ORD, DTW and MSP).

I agree with your point, but would add in the idea that the equipment before A320/737NG became common didn't really allow for the kinds of nonstops we now see, hubbing was more or less required to feed pax from short range DC9/737/Fokker/etc onto 727/757 for longer legs, and the relatively small size of the aircraft and their loud engines didn't make places like BOS, LGA or PHL viable as hubs back then.

A quick gc-map of some of my 90s trips on USAir shows that PIT wasn't a bad location: http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=MHT-PIT-SA ... HT-PIT-SJC

The fact that I can drive to BOS and get all of these flights and more as non-stop on A320/738 and even MHT has TPA non stops has changed the way I travel.

I feel for airport planners, it can take decades to get a plan to be approved and by the time you finish much of the travel industry will have changed.

A lot of money was spend at PIT, STL, CLE, etc and the glory days did not last long enough to pay off the decades worth of debt accrued.

As you say the world has changed, and with larger, quieter and longer ranged narrow bodies the need for hubs has diminished and the value of serving O&D from their airports of choice has increased, with the airlines accepting the increased cost and operational challenges as necessary for accessing the most desirable customers.

Heck even WN has transformed itself from focusing on airports like MHT, PVD, and ISP to now focusing on BOS and LGA.

PIT, STL, and CLE were and are still viable cities as hubs, But! the Airlines who made them famous like USAir, TWA and Continental are no longer around and the cities do not fit the mold of American to which both USAir and TWA belong to and United to which Continental belongs to. That does not mean the cities are or were bad hubs. It just means that they won't be in the forefront of the big 3 of Delta, United or American. They are still viable hubs for any other airline but they'd have to have the moxie to go there and set up shop.


An airport without an airline simply can't be a hub. PIT, STL, and CLE aren't viable hubs anymore because the industry has changed.

There are other, larger markets where new players will fill the old role - there's a reason why other airlines have filled TWA's void at JFK, but not at STL.

STL is a good case; WN has largely backfilled the local traffic there, but they're obviously not operating the large connecting operation that TWA had - and the reason should be obvious: STL is not a great location (market size, airport facilities, and competitive positioning) for a massive connecting operation.
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:44 pm

kavok wrote:
When the economy is good, as it has been for the last few years, there are profitable opportunities to offer direct flights between mid-size markets and far away hubs (hub overflying). This reduces the need for connections at the hub being overflown.
We also see the occasional direct flights between key markets that are non-hub to non-hub. In both situations, much of that traffic is O-D to O-D.

However, when the economy isn’t doing so hot, these are the first routes to get cut, sending connections back to the hubs. Point being, in the next economic downturn, I expect most of the core hubs to absorb the less profitable fringe flying that exists today. And as such, the hubs won’t be as hit as hard (or disappear).

Much of that fringe flying is sustainable. Probably not at scale.

I expect in the next downturn small and mid hubs with low O&D to take a hit. Passengers like direct flights. I expect down gauging, e.g., 752 or 739/A321 to A223, but the P2P to continue.

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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:43 pm

strfyr51 wrote:
PIT, STL, and CLE were and are still viable cities as hubs, But! the Airlines who made them famous like USAir, TWA and Continental are no longer around and the cities do not fit the mold of American to which both USAir and TWA belong to and United to which Continental belongs to. That does not mean the cities are or were bad hubs. It just means that they won't be in the forefront of the big 3 of Delta, United or American. They are still viable hubs for any other airline but they'd have to have the moxie to go there and set up shop.

I think the fact that the Big 3 have not set up hubs at any of these places is a strong clue that the market has changed.

blockski wrote:
An airport without an airline simply can't be a hub. PIT, STL, and CLE aren't viable hubs anymore because the industry has changed.

There are other, larger markets where new players will fill the old role - there's a reason why other airlines have filled TWA's void at JFK, but not at STL.

STL is a good case; WN has largely backfilled the local traffic there, but they're obviously not operating the large connecting operation that TWA had - and the reason should be obvious: STL is not a great location (market size, airport facilities, and competitive positioning) for a massive connecting operation.

:checkmark:

Mboyle1988 wrote:
Wow. Americans are not clustering in 20 metro areas. Perhaps Ivy educated coastal elites are. But not the majority of the population by any stretch.

Then explain the percent changes we see below, seems to be a large number of "Ivy educated coastal elites" making the big airports even bigger, with most of them being coastal airports.

Percentage growth for the 30 Large Airports follows:
FLL 11.35% (also largest growth in absolute numbers 1,795,288 passengers)
SAN 9.28%
TPA 8.59%
IAH 7.93%
MCO 7.59%
PHL 7.16%
BOS 6.65%
SEA 6.12%
EWR 5.69%
IAD 5.42%
SLC 5.26%
DEN 5.21%
PDX 3.91%
JFK 3.68%
LAX 3.38%
ORD 3.32%
SFO 3.31%
ATL 3.21%
DFW 3.16%
BWI 3.05%
LGA 3.04%
HNL 2.80%
DTW 2.35%
PHX 2.06%
LAS 1.84%
MIA 1.51%
CLT 1.23%
MSP -0.26%
DCA -1.21%
MDW -2.14%
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:51 pm

Mboyle1988 wrote:
SurfandSnow wrote:
As Americans continue to cluster themselves in 20 or so major metropolitan areas, we will probably see fewer and fewer connecting passengers relative to nonstop passengers. Never mind the fact that planes with 75-100 seats can fly 2-3x farther today than planes of similar size in years past, when flyover country hubs like CLE, MEM and STL flourished. Even in the days when lower load factors were more tolerable, many hub operations failed. BNA, COS, MCI, RDU and SJC spring to mind.

Today, folks in Nashville might not have feeder services to places like BHM, SDF, etc. But they certainly do have nonstop services to popular destinations like AUS, ECP, SAN and SAV. I daresay O&D travelers in a market like BNA have better flight options today than they did back in the AA hub days...



Wow. Americans are not clustering in 20 metro areas. Perhaps Ivy educated coastal elites are. But not the majority of the population by any stretch.


It's not a majority yet but it's going to be getting there at some point soon. Top 20 CSAs totaled ~151 mil in 2018 out of a total population of ~327 mil. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combined_statistical_area
 
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Re: Collapsing US hubs

Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:53 pm

ChaseCLT wrote:
tlecam wrote:
SCFlyer wrote:

In addition to CLE for UA, UA had "mini-hubs" at MIA (acquired from Pan Am) and before that MCO in their Southern Hub experiments that ultimately failed

UA also had "gateways" (aka Focus Cities) at SEA and JFK which was mostly local O&D international flights to NRT/LHR (and others) before UA closed those bases down and moved those flights to their hubs during bankruptcy.


Didn’t US also have a big presence at BWI? Not sure if it was a gateway or a hub or what.


Yes. And a hub at FLL I believe. LGA, PIT, PHL, BWI, DCA, BOS, CLT and FLL and I believe some point to point east coast. HQ was right across the Potomac in Crystal City. Very much an east coast airline.


Not across the Potomac. Both DCA and the Crystal Palace were on the Virginia side of the river. The only thing separating the Palace from DCA was a set of railroad tracks and the George Washington Parkway.

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