Airport Hubs Explained – FAQ Fridays

The airline industry is a complicated beast. With so many airlines flying weird and wonderful routes to get you where you’re going, we explore the reasons behind flight routings and what to look for when picking a multi-leg ticket.

Video Transcription

Welcome to another edition with me, Nick Paul. Today we are talking about airline hubs. We got asked on Facebook by Ansie: “Which airport was better to fly via to get to Syracuse, New York: JFK or Atlanta?”

I wanted to use this opportunity to talk a little about the rather complicated topic of airline hubs. A hub is an airline’s main airport, which it focuses its operations around. It is an airport at which all its flights must begin or terminate.

This aids two things:

1. Firstly it allows an airline to invest in infrastructure at the airport, whether it be lounges or cargo facilities. It’s usually the nations capital or largetst city, for example SAA –Johannesburg, and Kenya Airways – Nairobi.

2. It also makes it better for competition, so you can’t get an airline like a US airline coming to South Africa and stealing some of the routes from smaller airlines that don’t have as much capital to fight them off.

Examples of this:

British Airways: London Heathrow
Kenya Airways: Nairobi
Thai Airways: Bangkok
South African Airways: OR Tambo
Emirates: Dubai

Some airlines also have additional focus cities or multiple hubs within their own country:

American Airlines: JFK, Miami, Dallas, LAX
Lufthansa: Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf
• Qantas: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane

Another type of airport is a gateway airport, which is any airport where multiple airlines fly into. It is usually a big airport which is an entry point into a country for many passengers to connect via smaller airlines on to smaller airports

For example:

• OR Tambo Airport for the rest of South Africa. Ie: PE, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein etc.
• Mumbai functions in this way for the rest of India
• Moscows’ Domodedovo airport functions in this way for the rest of Russia

Getting back to Ansie’s case, Syracuse is a 4 1/2 hour drive from JFK Airport, or a 1 hour flight, and it’s a 2 Hour flight from Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson International Airport.

• JFK is a hub for American Airlines & Delta. It is also a gateway for many airlines like Virgin Atlantic, SAA and Emirates who flight to South Africa as well.
• Atlanta is what’s known a fortress hub for Delta, which means that the one airline controls 70% or more of the traffic going in and out of that airport. It has a large market share, meaning there is not a lot of choice if you are flying via Atlanta. You will really only be flying on Delta.


• It is very much down to personal choice
• What I would suggest is using a service like Travelstart where you can compare prices, connection times, length of journeys etc to see what is going to work out best for you. You might find that on different days, different airports are better for you.

So that’s it from me on FAQ Friday. You can subscribe to our channel to get more updates and remember to put a comment in if you have any travel related questions, and we will answer them for you.


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