Q: I want to go from Dallas/Fort Worth to Nashville, and American takes you to Chicago first. Why?
— Anita, Carrollton, Texas
A: Many airlines use a hub-and-spoke route system. The hubs are tied to the outlying cities (spokes), which maximizes the number of passengers who can connect to flights. The downside is when a passenger has to fly to the hub, then on to a spoke city that makes no sense geographically. The hub-and-spoke system is more efficient for the airline and provides more choices for more passengers, but this efficiency can come with a price (the time required to fly from spoke to hub to spoke).
Q: Will the ultra-long-range aircraft being developed and deployed worldwide spell the end of the hub-and-spoke systems used by most large airlines?
— Daniel Lilly, Little Rock
A: No, the hub-and-spoke system remains the most efficient system for large airlines. Increasingly, the use of long-range medium-sized airplanes allows more cities to be directly tied to more hubs.
The ultra-long-range airplanes allow cities that could not be directly connected to be part of more hubs. This capability gives passengers more choices and increases competition.
In both cases, the intent is to add cities into the hub system.
Some airlines use point-to-point instead of hubs, but these airlines usually have limited international routes.
Q: I was on a flight from ATL going to LGA and was surprised when our plane bypassed a line of at least 10 planes waiting to take off and we were cleared immediately. Do air-traffic controllers give priority to planes flying from one busy hub airport to another to keep them on schedule?
— Tom, Gainesville, Fla.
A: No, the air-traffic controllers move airplanes on a first-come, first-served basis. However, if there are restrictions for departure in a particular direction, other unrestricted airplanes can depart ahead of those forced to hold. As an example, you may have seen flights held up for southbound departures while your flight north was not affected.
Q: Are there still too many hubs in the U.S., or do we finally have the right balance?
— Terrence Handy, Dallas
A: Good question. I think we may see one or…