American Airlines will ease away from the continuous hubbing that smooths operations at key airports, increases aircraft utilization and cuts costs as it returns to the peak-and-valley hub-and-spoke system adopted decades ago under former CEO Robert Crandall.
Although this will mean higher costs and big gaps in airport activity, the increased revenue potential–called the power of the hub under Crandall–will offset the increased costs, says Derek Kerr, CFO of American.
We were at American’s Leadership Council meeting for 1,500 employees yesterday. The meeting itself was off the record but we talked with Kerr afterwards on the record.
Kerr, CFO at US Airways prior to the merger between AA and US, said that the continuous hub can’t connect as many passengers as the traditional hub, leaving revenue on the table. Continuous hubbing allowed a 45 minute ground time, which is too short–an hour is needed to maximize connections.
Re-hubbing will occur this year at Chicago, Miami and Dallas.
Southwest Airlines was a pioneer in continuous hubbing, though it wasn’t called this until perhaps a decade ago. Southwest essentially rolls the airplanes up, deplanes, enplanes and departs. At its origin, long before carry on bags, bag fees, security issues and other factors arose, Southwest “turned” its planes in as little as 10 minutes. Today turns are 30 minutes or longer, in part as planes get larger and carry-on bags slow the enplaning process. Still, Southwest eschews the term hubbing and indeed its connection percentage is far lower than American and other traditional airlines.
The de-hubbing is just one step the US Airways management team is taking to remake American following its emergence from bankruptcy last year and the merger in December.