The need for hubs
When considering the need for hubs, it is useful to explore how the concept of hubs has developed over time. As a society, we have long gravitated towards hubs of one kind or another – many of our biggest cities began as trading hubs which in turn brought both commerce and people! Airport hubs continue this lineage to the present day, creating jobs and routes for trade, serving as gateways for global and regional passengers, and creating revenue through commerce.
Airport hubs have also made air travel more economically viable. As mentioned earlier, from an airline perspective, international hubs allow for the servicing of more destinations than would previously have been possible. The growth of regional airports
too has seen airlines expand operations to accommodate more flights from regional hubs. This all trickles down to the customer who has the benefit of more options to choose from as well as more competitive flight prices.
Together with the increasing economic viability of air travel (partly enabled by hubs), there has been growth in both low-cost carriers and network carriers which, until the current crisis, had been meeting the increase in passenger numbers with more and more long-haul point-to-point flights (enabled thanks to ever-improving aircraft technology).
While long-haul flights may seem more environmentally friendly – why take two planes when one will do, right? – the environmental trade-off is not as obvious as first thought. For example, on long-haul flights, planes are bigger and passengers have more space. That means that each passenger and crew member accounts for more of the plane’s pollution. Here, the need for indirect stop-over travel provided by international hubs in particular, not only becomes more obvious but may also provide a more sustainable solution – by bringing people from varying points of origin to the same destination via transfer, instead of via multiple long-haul flights. But provisioning more short-haul flights isn’t always the optimal answer for domestic travel since more emissions are produced as planes take off as opposed to when they’re cruising; also domestic flights often spend relatively little time cruising.
So, while more shorter flights may better offset a long-haul flight; domestic travel requires a different answer – and one which hubs can provide.