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An American 787-8 arrives in Philadelphia for the first time in scheduled service. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ryan Ewing)

How American’s Hubs Are Operating Five Years After the Merger

Throughout the history of the airline industry, there have been turbulent times, then there have been times of immense industry-wide success and profitability. Airlines have come and gone as those transitions transformed the physical nature of business within the airline industry. Just in the last five years, the merger between American and US Airways — cemented on Oct. 17, 2015 — has been a principal driver for change in the U.S.

Both airlines had turbulent and celebratory times, before the comprehensive merger. While the Fort-Worth, Texas-based carrier has 10 extensive hubs across the U.S., its substantial process to maintain its additional, brand new hubs plays a crucial role, creating the growth and development that American has experienced since the merger.

As airlines enter and exit the industry, airline hubs are the first places to experience those effects. American is no stranger to this concept, as, before the merger with US Airways, the airline acquired Air Cal, Reno Air and most notably Trans World Airlines. Ultimately, the prominent Oneworld alliance member established Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, and New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airports as key hubs. 

Meanwhile, American entered — with a larger presence — four new hubs: Phoenix, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Charlotte, NC as US Airways’ route network was integrated into that of the new American Airlines Group. American’s decision to inherit and keep the four new hubs contributes a major factor to its flight and network operations five years later. 

Los Angeles is mainly built for American’s Oceania flight operations, and Miami is the airline’s dominant hub for flights to South and Central America. Additionally, New York is for point-to-point flight operations, mainly catered towards business travelers and frequent flyers. Finally, Dallas is American’s gateway to Asia, featuring flights to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul, while Chicago mainly handles domestic and European flights. 

Northeast, Southeast, and West Coast Hubs

American allowed the four new hubs to complement its existing strongholds, expanding its trans-Atlantic flights through Philadelphia, where more than 8,700 team members support its flight operations, an increase of more than 1,000 since the beginning of the merger. 

The hub in Philadelphia – generally focused on leisure travel to seasonal European destinations – accompanies American’s other Northeast hub, New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, contributing to its trans-Atlantic operations. The airline invested more than $200 million into the hub’s facilities, providing the airline the opportunity to support its prospects, including a Boeing 787 Dreamliner crew base for its long-haul flights.

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., American has strategically expanded its presence with new nonstop flights to six cities, featuring Tallahassee, Fla.; Little Rock, Ark. and Montgomery, Ala., potentially providing the airline the opportunity to better position itself competitively on the U.S. East Coast. 

Charlotte was once one of US Airways’ major hubs on the East Coast, and American continues to consider Charlotte an important airport — along with Miami — for its operations throughout the southeastern U.S. and to Europe, investing more than $100 million to improve support for ground staff and baggage operations. American’s commitment to its hub in Charlotte directly competes with nearby Delta’s major southeastern hub in Atlanta.

After the merger, American evolved US Airways’ previous presence – acquired from America West – in Phoenix, featuring access to 21 new markets and routes. The carrier invested more than $70 million to renovate and refresh Terminal Four for its extensive operations. Phoenix accompanies American’s existing hub in Los Angeles, where both United and Delta are heavily competitive.

As American celebrates this special event, highlighting its milestones five years after its merger with US Airways, its strategic integration for its four new hubs serves as one of its most important achievements for the long-term success of the brand. But the airline continues to evolve as it works to alter the way it does business in the post-COVID-19 era.

Editor’s Note: This article was re-published on Oct. 27 at 11 a.m. ET after a number of errors were identified in the article’s previous version. These issues have been rectified.

Benjamin Pham
Benjamin Pham
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