Should UA develop new hubs/focus cities?

Old Sep 15, 18, 9:37 am
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Should UA develop new hubs/focus cities?

This is more for discussion purposes, as I haven't read anything that suggests UA has any interest in building out additional hubs or focus cities. Do folks think that UA would ever contemplate adding more domestic hubs or focus cities in the future? It seems like DL has been quite aggressive around expansion (e.g. SEA, RDU, BOS, to name a few), and while I don't have numbers, I have to imagine that this helps DL continue to build market share outside of its core hubs. With UA, the only quasi-focus city left in the network is CLE, and I don't think that is somewhere that they are really 'focusing', as opposed to keeping a legacy number of routes to spokes that make sense. UA certainly has a different hub setup relative to AA and DL (particularly with the coastal concentration), but this also means that it has some gaps in particular in the existing network, with the Southeast being the most glaring example.

Perhaps the FA integration, re-banking at other hubs, and other actions need to be taken first before this would be contemplated - but do folks think UA should be thinking about expanding / building out operations at other airports, or are their existing mainland hubs (SFO, LAX, DEN, IAH, ORD, IAD, and EWR) sufficient? Would be interested to hear other's thoughts on this
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Old Sep 15, 18, 9:40 am
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They should re-hub CLE
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Old Sep 15, 18, 9:42 am
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Originally Posted by LordHamster View Post
They should re-hub CLE
Not a surprising opinion for someone based in Cleveland, Ohio.
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Old Sep 15, 18, 9:55 am
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Originally Posted by PsiFighter37 View Post
Not a surprising opinion for someone based in Cleveland, Ohio.


CLE made little sense as a hub for CO and makes no sense at all for UA -- it's just not far enough away from EWR, IAD, and ORD. The only possible purposes it could serve would be as a reliever hub, drawing excess capacity when the larger hubs are full -- but they're using IAD for that purpose -- or as a defensive move, but neither AA nor DL would really benefit from a CLE hub either, for pretty much the same reasons.

The biggest hole in UA's hub system is the southeast. However, it's hard to find an attractive southeastern candidate for a hub. Atlanta would have the right spacing, but I can't imagine ATL needs that much more capacity, and I don't think they'd want to pick a fight with DL (even assuming they could get gates). Jacksonville is the largest city in the region that's not already a hub for somebody, but it's extremely southeast, to the point where it might not be much more convenient than IAD.

FWIW, I think DL is hubbing RDU as a defensive measure against UA, but I can't see UA wanting RDU anyway; it's just not far enough away from IAD.
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Old Sep 15, 18, 9:59 am
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Without a major economic shift in the US, itís hard for me to foresee any new hubs being developed by major airlines. Is there a city with an economy large enough to profitably sustain a hub that doesnít already have one?

The biggest gaps UA has are the southeast and northwest. The northwest isnít very populous until you get to the coast, and thatís already pretty well covered by the AS/DL bloodbath (which actually led UA to pull out of some markets up there). In the southeast, Iíd guess the largest airport that doesnít have a hub is MCO, but thatís notorious for low yields, so not a recipe for any sort of success.

In an imaginary world where extra gate space was available, Iíd like UA to build a small focus at MDW, because itís generally nicer and quicker for me to get there than ORD (about half the travel time).

There could be an opportunity for a focus city at AUS, which seems to be a growing city, but I seem to recall Delta having their eyes on it.

What about BNA? I know itís a WN stronghold, but the economy there seems to be doing well and there might be some demand for a carrier that offers upgrades and international connections.

Iíll throw in the caveat that I havenít studied these markets enough to know whether they really make sense in any sort of higher level. Just going with some off-the-top-of-my-head ideas for a hypothetical discussion.
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Old Sep 15, 18, 10:26 am
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Originally Posted by rmadisonwi View Post
Without a major economic shift in the US, itís hard for me to foresee any new hubs being developed by major airlines. Is there a city with an economy large enough to profitably sustain a hub that doesnít already have one?

The biggest gaps UA has are the southeast and northwest. The northwest isnít very populous until you get to the coast, and thatís already pretty well covered by the AS/DL bloodbath (which actually led UA to pull out of some markets up there). In the southeast, Iíd guess the largest airport that doesnít have a hub is MCO, but thatís notorious for low yields, so not a recipe for any sort of success.

In an imaginary world where extra gate space was available, Iíd like UA to build a small focus at MDW, because itís generally nicer and quicker for me to get there than ORD (about half the travel time).

There could be an opportunity for a focus city at AUS, which seems to be a growing city, but I seem to recall Delta having their eyes on it.

What about BNA? I know itís a WN stronghold, but the economy there seems to be doing well and there might be some demand for a carrier that offers upgrades and international connections.

Iíll throw in the caveat that I havenít studied these markets enough to know whether they really make sense in any sort of higher level. Just going with some off-the-top-of-my-head ideas for a hypothetical discussion.
The only way I see UA increasing presence at SEA would be if Newark wins Amazon's HQ2...otherwise, I don't think they are going to compete strongly there. Agreed re: MCO...leisure destination, and can't imagine there is as high a concentration of originating business traffic.

As for MDW - have to imagine that it is same reason that UA doesn't have gates at HOU anymore. There's probably way more scale for flying via ORD (or IAH, as it relates to HOU), and having a small operation that flies a limited amount to big O&D destinations (e.g. NYC) doesn't justify it.

AUS would be nice, but given proximity to IAH, perhaps UA should have high-frequency (nearly shuttle-like) departures to IAH? It would be a forward-thinking move, though, given that you have a lot of tech firms locating here.

Can't speak about BNA, but is there enough business traffic to do so?
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Old Sep 15, 18, 10:33 am
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Originally Posted by PsiFighter37 View Post
AUS would be nice, but given proximity to IAH, perhaps UA should have high-frequency (nearly shuttle-like) departures to IAH? It would be a forward-thinking move, though, given that you have a lot of tech firms locating here.
CO had hourly service to IAH from 6 AM to 7 PM, at least during the summer. UA has cut a couple of the frequencies and downgauged others. As much as I'd like it, AUS doesn't make sense as a hub for UA due to proximity to IAH.

The only airline that could reasonably turn AUS into a hub is DL -- but the airport itself isn't really sized for it. They'd likely need to build an entire new terminal to do it.
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Old Sep 15, 18, 10:34 am
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I see UA expanding its existing hubs before they look into opening a new hub. IAD seems to have the most potential for growth, especially if Amazon selects Northern Virginia/DC area for its HQ2.
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Old Sep 15, 18, 10:36 am
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Originally Posted by PsiFighter37 View Post
This is more for discussion purposes, as I haven't read anything that suggests UA has any interest in building out additional hubs or focus cities. Do folks think that UA would ever contemplate adding more domestic hubs or focus cities in the future? It seems like DL has been quite aggressive around expansion (e.g. SEA, RDU, BOS, to name a few), and while I don't have numbers, I have to imagine that this helps DL continue to build market share outside of its core hubs. With UA, the only quasi-focus city left in the network is CLE, and I don't think that is somewhere that they are really 'focusing', as opposed to keeping a legacy number of routes to spokes that make sense. UA certainly has a different hub setup relative to AA and DL (particularly with the coastal concentration), but this also means that it has some gaps in particular in the existing network, with the Southeast being the most glaring example.

Perhaps the FA integration, re-banking at other hubs, and other actions need to be taken first before this would be contemplated - but do folks think UA should be thinking about expanding / building out operations at other airports, or are their existing mainland hubs (SFO, LAX, DEN, IAH, ORD, IAD, and EWR) sufficient? Would be interested to hear other's thoughts on this
I am flying out of RDU again as US home base, UA are number nothing in the ranking here and live in the straggler gates with Frontier ,Allegiant et al at the end of the D gates. Given the growth in the region current and forecast I think they could do more here , I think they may have sat back too long and watched though. That said when I moved here I was flying Embraer props to DC to connect .
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Old Sep 15, 18, 10:39 am
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DL seems to be retreating from SEA (cancellation of only flight to HKG). Given the proximity of SFO and LAX I donít think they are missing much coverage there.

Agree that the southeast is the biggest hole but canít think of and good place to put one. Florida is too far for anything but O&D traffic unless they develop Deep South America. But they have IAH and to a certain extent IAD for that.

Personally Iíd rather see them develop LAX
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Old Sep 15, 18, 10:44 am
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Originally Posted by SFOdelayed View Post
Personally Iíd rather see them develop LAX
I think we all would, but it's clear that they don't have the gates to meaningfully do it. Selling the T6 gates to AA (who is now #1 at LAX) was one of the stupider short-sighted moves by Smisek.
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Old Sep 15, 18, 11:29 am
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Originally Posted by SFOdelayed View Post
DL seems to be retreating from SEA (cancellation of only flight to HKG).
You base that on one flight? In 2014, when DL at 38 flights at SEA, their VP for Seattle said they would have 150+ flights at SEA in 2017. They had 166. That doesn't sound like retreat to me.

https://www.seattlebusinessmag.com/a...ska-vs-delta-0

Originally Posted by PsiFighter37 View Post
It seems like DL has been quite aggressive around expansion (e.g. SEA, RDU, BOS, to name a few), and while I don't have numbers, I have to imagine that this helps DL continue to build market share outside of its core hubs.
Delta hasn't grown much but has instead reallocated capacity. They took hundreds of flights out of MEM and CVG (260 in 2008, 82 for summer 2018) and put them into SEA, LAX, NYC, and BOS. AA and UA haven't grown much, either, in the last ~11 years. The 3 have grown slower than the industry RPM average, ceding market share to LCC/ULCCs -- WN, Spirit, JetBlue, Allegiant (and Alaska).

Ending CLE was basic cost-cutting, not strategic. Where do you think United has a 200+ flight hub opportunity, and why?
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Old Sep 15, 18, 11:33 am
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I looked up the largest cities, and here are the ones without a UA, AA or DL hub: SAT, SAN, SJC, AUS, JAX, CMH, IND, SEA, BOS, ELP, BNA and MEM. Pick one.

I think the more interesting question is CLE. Is the mini-hub model a good one? If so, promoting BOS, JAX or maybe PDX to mini-hub status might be the thing to do.
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Old Sep 15, 18, 12:09 pm
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post


CLE made little sense as a hub for CO and makes no sense at all for UA -- it's just not far enough away from EWR, IAD, and ORD. The only possible purposes it could serve would be as a reliever hub, drawing excess capacity when the larger hubs are full -- but they're using IAD for that purpose -- or as a defensive move, but neither AA nor DL would really benefit from a CLE hub either, for pretty much the same reasons.

The biggest hole in UA's hub system is the southeast. However, it's hard to find an attractive southeastern candidate for a hub. Atlanta would have the right spacing, but I can't imagine ATL needs that much more capacity, and I don't think they'd want to pick a fight with DL (even assuming they could get gates). Jacksonville is the largest city in the region that's not already a hub for somebody, but it's extremely southeast, to the point where it might not be much more convenient than IAD.

FWIW, I think DL is hubbing RDU as a defensive measure against UA, but I can't see UA wanting RDU anyway; it's just not far enough away from IAD.
Orlando might be an interesting hub.
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Old Sep 15, 18, 12:24 pm
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Originally Posted by dilanesp View Post
Orlando might be an interesting hub.
or Tampa
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