Big Metal Bird Episode 5: Hub & Spoke


I just flew into Chicago,
the Windy City, to meet the President
of United Airlines. That’s right, I’m going to the top. ♪ ♪ So who is this
Phil Torres guy? He better not
bring the snake. Today I’m at Willis Tower
in Chicago to learn more about how United’s route
network system works. Sitting here today in the
Network Operations Center for United Airlines. This is the brains
of the airline. We’re tracking weather
systems around the country. We’re tracking air traffic
control issues around the world. We’re tracking crews for
the 5,000 flights a day that are flying at United, they’re all managed here
in this central nervous system for United Airlines. That’s a heck of a lot
of planes right there. That is Phil. And through the seven
hubs that we fly to, we can get you to 339
destinations around the world. To pull this off, United uses a
Hub and Spoke model. What’s that? Here’s a little 101
to get us started. Most major airlines operate under one of two network systems, hub and spoke
or point to point. Well, a point to point
carrier really focuses on just carrying customers
within a specific market. For people that
fly between two big cities like
Dallas and Houston, that’s great. For all the other vast
number of cities that aren’t large enough to have
that point to point service, a hub and spoke network gives
them access to the entire world. A hub and spoke is where
we fly a bunch of flights into a single airport. And a lot of the
passengers then connect on and go somewhere else. In Houston for example, 72% of the people that
fly into Houston are connecting on to
other destinations. Only 28% of our customers
are actually stopping and getting off the
airplane in Houston. But because of that,
that 72% basically means that we can be four times
larger in a city like Houston than we would be if we
didn’t have a hub and spoke. Let’s say you’re in
Grand Rapids, Michigan and want to fly to
Austin, Texas. On average, only six
United customers a day need to fly from Grand
Rapids to Austin, which isn’t enough people
to fill a one hundred and fifty seat 737 plane. But, if we send those six
people through a hub, in this case, Houston, we’re able to offer nine flights
per day from Grand Rapids that will get you to
Austin with one stop. Hub and spoke offers
an efficient way to travel, giving passengers
more schedule options to get to their
final destinations and creating flights
that wouldn’t exist using a point to point
network system. We know hub and spoke
benefits United’s customers, but it also benefits
local communities. Here in Chicago,
we’ve got 15,000 employees, in Houston we’ve got
14,000 employees. And we care about the
communities that we’re in, because that’s where
our family is. We know that making our
local communities stronger and better is not
only good for them, it’s really good for
United Airlines. Let’s go hear more on
the topic from John Heimlich, Vice President and
Chief Economist at Airlines for America. When thinking about the value
of a hub to a community, it’s a lot more than
just the air service itself. For every 100 airline jobs,
there are an additional 300 created throughout
the U.S. economy. It creates new spending,
goods moving. It also creates a larger
tax base for the area that can be used to
improve the infrastructure, improve the schools. Denver is one of
the fastest growing economies in this country. Of course Houston
with the energy sector and financial institutions. If you look around
United’s Network, there are plenty of
opportunities where there’s an attraction for businesses to
locate near the hub. There’s an old saying
in our business that a couple miles of
highway or railway can take you
from A to B, but a couple miles of runway
can take you from A to Anywhere. All the people here
at United Airlines share pride in our
ability to connect and unite the world and
bring people together, bringing cultures together. United really is making
the world a smaller place. Meeting Scott and John
today was great, but there’s one
last thing I have to do before I leave Chicago. Hi. Can I get a hotdog please? This is beautiful. Today I learned that United’s
Hub and Spoke Network is connecting more people
to more places than ever. And that a growing hub,
means a stronger network which means you can more easily
get to where you need to go. I also learned that
it’s probably not a good idea to
ask for ketchup on your hotdog when
you’re in Chicago. I’d stick to mustard. ♪ ♪ Oh, that’s good.

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