Sometimes not having a big dominant airline helps an airport, writes David Field. Take for instance the airport in the city that calls itself “the hub of the universe”, Boston’s Logan International. The city, a centre for education, finance, and the hi-tech and biotech businesses of the New England region, would seem a natural hub airport, with a strong local traffic base and longstanding connecting patterns throughout a 300- or 400-mile radius.
But no one carrier fully dominates Logan, and the airport has gone through years of waning or rising shares from American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, US Airways, and others. Now, it is developing into a full-array airport as low-cost carriers move in. Because of the geography of the region, some of Logan’s most heavily trafficked destinations, such as New York, Philadelphia and Washington, fell in the less-than-500-mile trips that were hardest hit by the post-9/11 downturn as travellers switched to the train or cars – or to low-fare competition at rival airports.
The region long had a thirst for low fares, and that was stimulated when AirTran Airways, then known as ValuJet, began Logan flights in 1995 and, with a brief interruption, grew. Meanwhile, Southwest began flights at a pair of airports that were within an hour’s drive of Boston, first south at Providence, Rhode Island, in 1996 and then in 1998 to the north, at Manchester, New Hampshire.
As Southwest grew at these outlying cities, AirTran added flights; JetBlue began low-fare service at Logan in 2004, and now the airport is on a boom as JetBlue prepares to make it a focus point for its Embraer 190 100-seater expansion.
AirTran is now up to 27 daily flights to six cities and should be up to 30 by summer; JetBlue is adding Embraer 190 flights between Logan and West Palm Beach, Florida; Austin, Texas; Nassau, in the Bahamas; and Richmond, Virginia, as well as a shuttle-like service with as many as 10 daily 190 flights between Logan and its New York JFK hub. These are in addition to Airbus A320 flights between Logan and nine cities including San Jose, California, and Las Vegas.
By April, JetBlue expects to have 50 daily nonstops from Logan, up from 40 now, and is already expanding into terminal space vacated by Delta. Howard Mann of Intervistas GA2 consultants says: “You see American and Delta going back and forth over really establishing a major presence at Logan, but the forthcoming competition, when the low-fare carriers go head-to-head with each other, will really be interesting.” Observers will watch closely to see if either Providence or Manchester “leaks” traffic to Logan, the airport at the “hub of the universe”.

Source: Airline Business