The Difference: Hub and Spoke vs. Point to Point

Let’s start The Networker with a tutorial about a question that many of newbie ‘route network enthusiasts’ may be curious on.
You may have heard about Point to Point and Hub and Spoke models in airline networks. What do they exactly mean ? What are the use cases ? And how could they work for the success of an airline ? Let’s find out.

Point to Point

A Point to Point network is a typical route network where an airline focuses mainly on its Origin and Destination ( O&D ) traffic.
This means that the airline is more interested in transportation of passengers originating from one city ( A ) to another ( B ) and vice versa, but not in connecting passengers between C and B via A.
Low Cost Carriers are considered to be pioneers of this paradigm with a classic example being Southwest Airlines of US.

Hub and Spoke

A Hub and Spoke network is a route network where an airline will not only plan on transporting passengers between two points, but also to connect passengers between two distant cities via its hub.

An example of a Hub and Spoke network can be seen from the following diagram.

Hub and Spoke Network ( Image by elwood64151 on Wikipedia )

Imagine that as a bicycle wheel, literally. The airline uses the routes from its hub to other cities as spokes to connect each of them via its hub.

The Hub and Spoke model originated with American Airlines, but perhaps the airline that uses it the best in present day is Emirates Airline.

A Hub and Spoke model essentially needs to have different banks of flight departues and arrivals – in order to connect an arrival from city C, with a departure to city B, at the hub A.
This paves way for the airline to attract highly lucrative transit traffic, which at some airline contribute more to fill a flight than O&D traffic.
However, this model is not without its downsides. Keeping flights tightly scheduled to fit this bank might be challenging, and actually operating them on time to provide the connections might be even more challenging.

However, the advantage, as well as the increased use of Hub and Spoke models by competitors have forced not just many legacy full fare carriers but also Low Cost Carriers to embrace a Hub and Spoke model.

Perhaps one LCC that does this best, is AirAsia with its three ( soon to be four ) affiliates and the long haul unit AirAsia X. AirAsia does not provide passengers with direct connection options ( although since their latest booking engine upgrade, you can do so ) and guarantees, and it is up to the passenger to self-connect. This saves the airline both time and money while the carrier’s ever increasing network with naturally banked scheduling provides a good amount of connection opportunities. Another LCC that seems to be following this path is FlyDubai ( IATA: FZ ) which also provides connectivity to/from its big brother Emirates’ flights on selected routes.

I hope this clears out any doubts or questions you may have had about the two different main airline route network models. Feel free to ask any questions and to share your opinion, in the comments section.

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