|Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 95):|
Quoting Jetlanta (Reply 92):
Since there are NO competitive airports for all of Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo, etc..., SLC gets to claim all of that traffic legitimately. In other words, SLC has a very large catchment area, one much larger than its MSA. On the otherhand, SMF, for example, shares much of its traffic base with other airports such as OAK and SFO (for international). Even though the SMF MSA is larger, SLC actually generates more O&D traffic.
This is key. Looking at census derived MSA data is not all that valuable when evaluating air service markets. You have to look at catchment data.
Exactly. This is what so many people on here get wrong. The population of a market is only one factor. The geography, nature of the economy, competitive airports, etc...all have an impact. In this case, SLC is one of the highest performing passenger air travel markets per capita. As the population increases, the market will continue to grow with it. Long term, it is a solid play as a hub, as is Denver. The difference is that DL doesn't have to deal with F9 like UA does. I'm willing to take a pretty educated guess that DL's SLC hub outperforms UA's DEN hub on a P&L basis (profit & loss).
SLC has suffered from an undeserved reputation as a poor hub. It went through some lean years, most of which had more to do with Delta's costs and network strategy, rather than the market itself. Now that those things are in better order, the hub is performing better. It is pretty clear that DEN is not a great performer for UA, however.
To those who want to compare DEN and SLC, look at ATL and DFW. Just because ATL is a busier airport doesn't make DFW a bad hub. Just different. Same is true here.