What is airline hub?

An airline hub (also called a hub airport) is an airport serving as a transfer point to get passengers to their final destination. The system is built around an airport through which all the traffic from the spoke airports is directed.

Benefits and drawbacks

An airline hub is part of the hub-and-spoke system where all communication passes through a central point. Compared to the point-to-point model where each point has a direct route to every other point, this system requires much fewer routes. Airlines therefore need to keep less aircraft in operation. And because passengers travel through the same connecting point, demand for the individual routes increases. However, travelling through a central point often makes the total flight duration longer.

Types of airline hubs

  • Primary and secondary – in particular, a secondary airline hub is used when the primary airline hub exceeds its capacity limitations. Sometimes it can also serve to expand the geographic reach of the given airline.
  • Focus city – strictly speaking, a focus city is not an airline hub, but it is used in a similar manner. For example, it may serve as a cheaper alternative for journeys to selected destinations, a centre for minor repairs and cleaning.
  • Cargo hub – an airport facilitating more efficient transport of cargo and goods.
  • Reliever hub – when a primary airline hub faces excessive traffic, flights may be shifted to a reliever hub.

Airlines using the hub-and-spoke system include Aer Lingus (Dublin Airport), British Airways (London Heathrow), KLM (Amsterdam Schiphol) and Emirates (Dubai International Airport), to name just a few.

As a result of this system, when passengers of British Airways wish to fly from Prague to New York they have to transfer at London Heathrow.