The American Airlines Hub Ecosystem: Why It Works

American Airlines believes its core hub strategy and the connectivity it offers will provide the carrier with a competitive advantage as the airline industry emerges from the crisis. In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying last week, the airline’s Chief Revenue Officer said the system’s strength and resiliency are due to the carrier’s non-dogmatic approach.

The American Airlines Hub Ecosystem: Why It Works
American Airlines has a hub ecosystem spanning ten airports across the US. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

American Airlines has a well-developed hub ecosystem all across the United States. The carrier’s (unofficial) primary hub is located in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), along with its headquarters.

However, American also operates hubs at Charlotte (CLT), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York-John F Kennedy (JFK), New York-LaGuardia (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Phoenix (PHX), and Washington DC. National (DCA).

Under normal circumstances, the airline carries nearly 200,000,000 plus passengers through its ten hubs. Of course, the entire system has been tested to its limits, as has all of aviation throughout the past year. Meanwhile, some of American’s hubs have fared remarkably well throughout the pandemic. Dallas-Fort Worth and Charlotte, in particular, have proven exceptionally resilient.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Access to the global marketplace

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Simple Flying’s Jay Singh last week, American Airlines’ Chief Revenue Officer, Vasu Raja, commented on the successes of the airline’s hub network – and why it functions as well as it does. Speaking to the particular relationship between DFW and Charlotte, Mr Raja added,

“We offer you more connections. We offer a customer in Birmingham and Nashville, in Austin, in New Orleans, more access to the global marketplace than anybody else does. And that’s just between those two hubs. Then when you start adding in Miami, and Phoenix, and Chicago, and Philadelphia… American Airlines may have 35 to 40 flights in your city.”

The American Airlines Hub Ecosystem: Why It Works
American Airlines’ Chief of Revenue says the hubs system works because it offers customers more connectivity than any other carrier. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Creating maximum connecting value

American’s hubs have also been supporting each other with flexible roles for connectivity as the airline continues to gain momentum, swinging itself out of the deepest trenches of the crisis. As hubs came back online after months of minimal traffic figures, passenger flows were directed via different airports depending on emerging demand, such as upping connectivity to Californian cities via DFW rather than PHX. Mr Vaja further stated,

“All of them actually work together. And that’s where rather than having there be dogmatic roles for what these hubs do, we don’t think of it like that. Just how do we create the maximum connecting value for customers? And what’s the best way to go and do that?

AA b787
American Airlines is counting on its hub system to keep it competitive as the US airline industry emerges from the crisis. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

DFW and CLT strongest performers

Even throughout the crisis, American’s hubs at DFW and Charlotte have operated at between 75% and 90% of their 2019 capacity. Dallas is, traditionally, an international mega-gateway, while Charlotte focuses on domestic transfers and flights to the Caribbean.

It will be interesting to see how traffic will have shifted once the dust settles around any pandemic-related calibrations and if American’s hub system will indeed be what puts it a wing above the competition for post-crisis customers.