Houston is United’s largest hub this year when measured by available seats, although the difference between this and Denver is minuscule. In the year to June 2021, we see that ~8.4 million passengers transited Houston with United and Star Alliance partners, just 40% of the volume it had previously. Perhaps surprisingly, Newark to Quito was the largest market.
United’s Houston hub
Across the whole of 2021, United has more seats at Houston than at any of its other hubs, according to OAG. However, Denver trails very closely, with the gap potentially narrowing further depending on progress against the pandemic as winter approaches.
Houston Intercontinental is the country’s fourth-largest hub this year, behind Atlanta, Dallas (DFW), and Charlotte. And with United having 72% of the Texas airport’s seats, it is very much a fortress hub. Heavy use of regional jets, enabling more connectivity, is partly responsible, with Houston having one of the nation’s lowest seats per flight.
Over eight million transited over Houston
In the year to June 2021, the latest booking data I have, approximately 8.4 million people transited over Houston with United and Star partners. That is around 40% of what they had in the 12 months to June 2019, months before the pandemic was known, vividly showing how much catch-up is needed.
The top-20 connecting markets
Probably surprisingly, booking data shows that Newark to Quito, the Ecuador capital, had more transit passengers over Houston than any origin and destination in the 12 months to June 2021. This is shown below.
Newark-Quito perhaps demonstrates the importance now of leisure and visiting friends and relatives demand. Likewise, Mexico, which features 12 times (up from five), especially because of Cancun. The vacation hotspot occupies seven spots (up from two), including from Oklahoma City and Omaha.
- Newark over Houston to Quito
- Los Angeles-Orlando
- Cancun-Chicago O’Hare
- Chicago O’Hare-Mexico City
- New Orleans-San Francisco
- Chicago O’Hare-Guadalajara
- Guatamala City-San Francisco
- Cancun-Los Angeles
- Mexico City-Orlando
- Orlando-San Francisco
- Denver-Mexico City
- Orlando-Salt Lake City
- Newark-San Antonio
- Newark-Los Cabos
- Cancun-Las Vegas
- Miami-San Francisco
- Cancun-Oklahoma City
Over half of transit passengers were domestic
The lion’s share of transit passengers (around 57%) was, of course, domestic. That was far lower than the 82% Delta had over Atlanta in the calendar year 2020, reflecting Houston’s geographic location and international progress since coronavirus started.
Additionally, around one-third of United’s Houston transit traffic was to/from Mexico and Central America, especially Costa Rica and Honduras to the US. From its Texas hub, United serves San Jose and Liberia in Costa Rica, and Roatan, San Pedro Sula, and Tegucigalpa in Honduras.
Europe and Asia have a long way to go
The rest of the transit traffic – around 10% – involved other international destinations, mainly across Latin America to the US. Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Belize were all important.
With so many restrictions and relatively little flying, Europe and Asia were almost wiped out. Europe had just 7% of the connecting volume it had previously while Asia had just 5%. It will be some time until these have recovered.
What are your experiences of connecting at Houston? Let us know in the comments.