Many analysts around the world have predicted the end of the hub and spoke airline model. However, one airline remains extremely confident in its hub approach: Air France. The carrier has maintained strong connectivity through the pandemic thanks to its Paris hub and has no plans to move away from the model any time soon.
Hub airlines shine through
The start of the pandemic saw airlines globally ax all but essential flights as border controls were added and cases rose. Since then, many airlines have built back their schedules and hub airlines have taken the lead over point-to-point airlines.
Air France has benefitted from its strong hub in Paris, continuing to connect thousands of passengers and becoming Europe’s second-largest airline by volume.
In an interview with CAPA Live, Air France CEO Anne Rigail points out that the airline has maintained connectivity to 80% of its network during the pandemic, something which many other carriers have not done.
This was only possible due to the hub model, which allowed the airline to connect passengers and keep volumes relatively high. Moreover, cargo services were also a major reason to maintain routes through the crisis, since those remain the most profitable ventures.
The French advantage
Air France’s confidence in the hub model is not just reliant on connecting traffic but rather on the popularity of its home city. Paris is the most visited tourist destination in the world, making it an extremely popular point-to-point destination as well. Speaking about this CEO Anne Rigail said,
“The hub system is really proving that it has a future. I must say that Air France is a bit different since Paris is also a leading tourist destination. We have 40% of our customers that are flying point to point from Paris. So it’s a hub, and it’s also a local airport.”
The benefits of a hub combined with a popular destination means that Air France believes that it can sustain its Charles De Gaulle hub in the future too. While time only time will tell if this prediction comes true, Air France has managed to maintain routes for now.
While Air France might find itself with a natural advantage, the debate between airline models is far from over. Airlines globally have expanded their point-to-point routes in recent years, with even the longest flights now within the realm of possibility. The convenience of direct flights is unbeatable, but hub airlines have proved their resilience time and again. Will it work this time as well?