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Airline Hubs: Which Carrier Dominates Your Airport?

Airline hubs are specific airports that an airline company uses as a transfer sport to get travelers to their intended destination. This system is part of the spoke-hub transportation model, which has been favored by many airlines since the industry was deregulated in 1978. The model consists of a system of connections in which all airline traffic moves across spokes linked to the hub at the center.

For example, Denver and Los Angeles represent hubs, with many spokes reaching outward to other cities. The purpose of this model is simple: to save airlines money and to provide passengers better routes to their selected destinations. Today, most airlines have at least one main airport that their flights must travel through, and from there, the flights go outwards on different network spokes.

So which airlines dominate which airports? Let's take a look at seven major U.S. airlines, and see where their hubs are located.

American Airlines AAL

The world's largest airline by fleet size and revenue, American Airlines has been an industry staple since its formation in 1930. The company is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, and since its merger with US Airways in 2013, American Airlines operates nine domestic hubs:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
  • Charlotte-Douglas International Airport
  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport
  • Philadelphia International Airport
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • Miami International Airport
  • Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport
  • Los Angeles Airport
  • New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport

Alaska Airlines ALK

Alaska Airlines is American airline founded back in 1932. Originally offering flights from Anchorage, Alaska, the airlines today has flights to more than 100 destinations including Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Alaska Airlines' fleet consists of mostly Boeing (BA) 737 aircraft, as well as Bombardier and Embraer planes. The company has three main hubs:

  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  • Portland International Airport
  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport

And two focus cities:

  • San Diego International Airport
  • San Jose International Airport

Delta Airlines DAL

Like American, Delta has been present in the U.S. airline industry for decades. It began carrying passengers in 1929, and has grown rapidly since then due to many airline mergers. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Delta operates 10 domestic hubs:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
  • JFK International Airport
  • New York City's La Guardia Airport
  • Boston Logan International Airport
  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
  • Salt Lake City International Airport
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

And three international hubs:

  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
  • Tokyo Narita International Airport
  • Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport

Frontier Airlines

Founded in 1994, Frontier Airlines is a popular, privately-held, ultra-low-cost carrier headquartered in Denver Colorado. It recently announced a huge route expansion, and Frontier is adding 21 new destinations and 85 new routes to its network. Additionally, Frontier is adding dozens of non-stop flights between other cities that it already serves. With this network increase, Frontier's route map will grow to 82 cities by next summer. The airline operates out of one main hub:

  • Denver International Airport

And seven focus cities:

  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport
  • Orlando International Airport
  • Philadelphia International Airport
  • Trenton-Mercer Airport

JetBlue Airways JBLU

JetBlue is a popular low-cost airline option headquartered in Long Island in New York City. It serves 97 destinations in the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. JetBlue was founded in 1998, and primarily uses Airbus and Embraer aircraft. JetBlue utilizes the old0fashioned point-to-point system , which carries passengers short distances with few connecting flights, the airline operates out of six domestic focus cities:

  • JFK International Airport
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
  • Boston Logan International Airport
  • Long Beach Airport
  • San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport
  • Orlando International Airport

Southwest Airlines LUV

Touted as the world's largest low-cost carrier, Southwest Airlines was launched in 1967 and is known for its Rapid Rewards frequent-flyer program. Its headquarters is in Dallas, Texas. While Southwest does not use the hub and spoke transportation model (it prefers the point-to-point system like JetBlue) the airline still operates out of 10 major domestic cities:

  • Chicago Midway International Airport
  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport
  • McCarran International Airport
  • Dallas Love Field Airport
  • Denver International Airport
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • Houston's William P. Hobby Airport
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Orlando International Airport
  • Los Angeles International Airport

United Continental Holdings UAL

Headquartered in Chicago, United Continental Holdings is an airline holding company for United Airlines and Continental Airlines, which formed in a merger back in 2010. Operating more than 700 mainline aircraft, United Continental needs a lot of hubs. The airline company has nine hubs in total, eight domestic:

  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport
  • Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport
  • Denver International Airport
  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • Newark Liberty International Airport
  • San Francisco International Airport
  • Washington Dulles International Airport
  • Guam A.B. Wan Pat International Airport

And one international:

  • Tokyo Narita International Airport

As you can see, these seven major airlines overlap in their hub or major operating city locations nationwide, which can be looked at as a positive thing for frequent travelers. The hub and spoke model offers each airline (even Southwest and JetBlue) a way to replace a high number of half-empty routes with fewer, fuller ones, leading to less delays and a wide variety of connections.

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Southwest Airlines Company (LUV): Free Stock Analysis Report

JetBlue Airways Corporation (JBLU): Free Stock Analysis Report

Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL): Free Stock Analysis Report

United Continental Holdings, Inc. (UAL): Free Stock Analysis Report

American Airlines Group, Inc. (AAL): Free Stock Analysis Report

Alaska Air Group, Inc. (ALK): Free Stock Analysis Report

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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