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An airline hub is an airport that an airline uses as a transfer point to get passengers to their intended destination. It is part of a hub and spoke model, where travelers moving between airports not served by direct flights change planes en route to their destinations. Many hubs of the airlines are also situated at airports in the cities of the respective head offices.

Some airlines may use only a single hub, while other airlines use multiple hubs. Hubs are used for both passenger flights as well as cargo flights.

Many airlines also utilize focus cities, which function much the same as hubs. Airlines may also use secondary hubs, a non-technical term for large focus cities.

For most non-US airlines, it is more technically correct to use the term home base rather than hub as a majority of their flights are international and the so-called hubs are simply their home countries' largest airports, such as Dubai International Airportmarker for Emirates Airline or Dublin Airportmarker for Aer Lingus. Indeed, the application of the term hub in such contexts is only recently popularized by American airline industry analysts and often contested by local commentators.

A point of onward transfer is required to be called something, and a hub is as good a name as any other in the genre. An airline must have a base, and while a hub is very much a travel industry and aviation term, it describes the purpose of an airlines main base airport, and similarly secondary hubs, and focus cities.

Fortress hub

A fortress hub is an airport where a single airline's share of flights is at or above the monopoly standard of 70 percent of flights in and out of the hub. For example, in 2005 US Airways occupied 72 (plus 1 shared with Lufthansamarker) out of 85 total gates and accounted for approximately 90% of passenger traffic at Charlotte/Douglas International Airportmarker. Another example is at Detroit marker, where only one route (DTW-CDG) from the airport isn't operated by Delta Air Lines. New entrants, such as Spirit Airlines at Detroit marker, AirTran at Atlanta marker, and Vanguard at Dallas-Fort Worth marker, allege to have been the target of exclusionary practices by the dominant carrier. Some observers argue that the existence of such hubs can stifle competition; ProAir's battle with Northwest when it briefly flew out of Detroit City Airportmarker is often cited as an example. Northwest was able to out compete the short-lived discount carrier by matching its fares and offering more frequent flights. Although these competitive measures have nothing to do with hub status per se, they are indicative of the measures a hub airline will take to defend its preferred position at a hub airport.

A few examples of fortress hubs for major US airlines include but not limited to:

Major passenger airlines and their hubs




North America (including Hawaii)



South America

See also


  1. Source: City of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, May 2005; US Airways, June 2005 A fortress hub is difficult for new entrant carriers to penetrate.
  2. Hub Cities: Air [1]

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