When legacy airlines merge, questions always arise about the status of the combined airlines’ hub operations — will they all survive? Even if they do, some hubs invariably go through a significant downsizing. And a new analysis of United’s Washington Dulles hub sees some troubling trends.
The analysis by Airways News notes that from mid-2011 through summer of 2015, United’s Dulles hub showed considerable shrinkage — from 300 flights a day to 230 and the hub faces “an uncertain future,” the report said.
What’s hurting United’s Dulles business? For one thing, the analysis notes, the merger of American and US Airways gave that combined carrier a bigger presence at Reagan National Airport (DCA), with more local travelers to switching loyalty from United to American. Also, slots that were spun off in that merger went to JetBlue, providing more low-cost route options at Reagan National.
Even worse for United’s Dulles business, Airways News said, was a number of exemptions the government allowed to DCA’s perimeter rule in 2012, bringing more longer-distance domestic flights to the much more accessible Reagan National.
“These shifts resulted in new flights/frequencies from Reagan to Portland by Alaska Airlines, Austin by Southwest, San Juan by JetBlue, San Francisco by United and Virgin America, Los Angeles by American…and Salt Lake City by Delta. These new beyond perimeter routes broke or weakened the O&D dominance for Dulles on these routes; traffic and revenue which United held the lion’s share of, ” the report said. (O&D refers to origin & destination traffic, i.e., trips starting or ending in Washington rather than connecting.)
United didn’t help its own Dulles cause when it merged with Continental, the analysis notes, since that gave it another big transatlantic connecting hub just a couple of hundred miles to the north, at Newark.
What’s the bottom line for Dulles? Because of Washington D.C.’s importance, United should show some “staying power” at Dulles, Airways News said. But it sees room for more contraction of domestic flights operations with most international routes preserved.
Does United need a hub at Dulles anymore? Please leave your comments below.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: 5 ways to save using Uber/Lyft + New overseas plan from Verizon + Trans-Pac fare war?