York is the nation's commercial center and the home of the United
Nations. You should be able to go to New York's primary
international gateway airport, Kennedy, and catch a flight on one
of our fine U.S. airlines to virtually any world capital.
Thanks to Delta,
we'll move a little closer to that goal next year, when the carrier
proposes to inaugurate service to Tel Aviv; Cairo; Amman, Jordan;
Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; and a number of other points, some
of which haven't been served by a U.S. carrier since the heyday of
the old Pan Am rivalry with TWA.
aspirations survive the FAA's plans for easing New York's
congestion woes, this would be welcome news for the Big Apple and
good news for a pet theory of ours -- that not every airline route
is best served through one or more network hubs.
considerable body of opinion in the airline world today that the
best way for Delta to get involved in serving places like Malaga,
Spain, or Dakar, Senegal, is to funnel passengers through its
Cincinnati and Atlanta hubs, drop them off in Paris or Amsterdam
and allow its SkyTeam partners to take it from there.
There's a lot to be
said for this kind of networking, but it tends to concentrate a lot
of air service at places like Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth and
Detroit, which are fine cities and excellent hubs, but not New
Delta's decision to
bring point-to-point service back to some of these important city
pairs is motivated, of course, by Delta's estimate of what's best
for Delta, but it is refreshing to see that, in this instance,
what's best for Delta is not synonymous with "what's best for
Atlanta" or "what's best for SkyTeam."
" " "
This is not to say,
however, that the hub-centric view of the universe is on the wane.
To the contrary, it appears to be alive and well in Washington,
where the DOT seems to have consulted a well-thumbed copy of "Who's
Who in Hubbing" to dole out six new airline routes to
Seattle and Los
Angeles, for example, are major commercial centers and, for the
airlines, natural and traditional gateways to Asia. Yet in the
DOT's latest additions the U.S.-China route map, no new lines are
being drawn for U.S. carriers at those gateways.
None of them involve
New York either.
The DOT grants these
route awards to serve "the public interest." We don't know whether
the public interest would be better served by having a new U.S.
airline route to China from Atlanta or from Los Angeles, but we
strongly suspect that a route from Atlanta would better serve
Since China still
caps the number of flights, the DOT is rightly concerned about
awarding these routes in a way that will "maximize our
opportunities to enhance capacity" and increase
But the DOT didn't
invite applications for specific gateways. Somewhat like Priceline,
it allowed the airlines to "name your own city pair."
they all volunteered to serve China from one of their
This has led to a
curious, and apparently artificial, division in the market for
U.S.-China air travel. No U.S. carrier serves China from Los
Angeles, but all three Chinese carriers do. Likewise, the only
service from Kennedy is from Air China and China
And, needless to say,
none of the Chinese carriers have ventured into Detroit or Chicago.