Everyone’s heard of the famous ‘hub and spoke’ system of air transportation, right? Well, turns out there are actually TWO different types of hubs: (1) airline hubs and (2) airports designated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as hubs. Every airline hub is also an FAA hub, but not every FAA hub is an airline hub. Got it?
Airlines tend to designate direct point-to-point routes based on a system of hubs, which are airports where passengers can transfer to many other routes (the spokes). These airline hubs are well-known and typically dominated by a particular carrier. For example:
- American Airlines at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Continental Airlines at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
- Southwest Airlines at Dallas Love Field (DAL).
Hmm…notice how they tend to congregate in Texas? That’s because it’s a good warm-weather region in the central U.S. and in the middle of North America. (Or maybe they’re just wannabe Texans, like yours truly!)
But actually, our own San Diego International Airport is a hub too!
While SDIA, pictured here at takeoff, may not be an airline hub where major passenger transfers take place – and is typically thought of as an ‘origin and destination’ airport instead – it IS classified as a hub by the FAA because of the volume of passengers it attracts. In fact, by the FAA’s accounting, Lindbergh Field is one of 30 large hub airports in the country. Together, these large hubs comprise greater than one percent of the national level of passenger enplanements. That’s a lot of passengers when you think of how many millions of people travel!
This actually puts SDIA – which served 18.3 million passengers last year – in the company of the big leagues, joining other FAA-designated large hub airports you might be familiar with, like:
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Along with large hubs, the FAA also designates medium and small hubs – just like clothing and beverage sizes! And there’s even an official ‘non-hub’ (honorable mention?) category for the smallest commercial airports, which together comprise just 0.05 percent of the national passenger enplanement level.
So even if we are at that southwestern-most edge of the country, SDIA is still a major hub of activity. But we already knew that about America’s Finest City!