Picture of Thomas Horton
We’d love to hear what you think
about our airline and
our employees.
Please write to us at:
www.aa.com/customerrelations.

Want to sign up for free e-mail
notification of Tom Horton's column
or to see past columns?
Click here!
THIS MONTH, I'D LIKE to pay tribute to one of the most important, most powerful and most ­underappreciated pillars of the American economy:­ the airline hub. If you’re reading this onboard an American Airlines aircraft, I’d wager that your journey today is probably taking you through New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth or Miami, the five cities where we operate connecting hubs. I’d also bet that all things being equal, those of you making a connection would prefer to fly directly to your ultimate destination. That’s understandable.

Connecting hubs may never be overly popular, but they are essential — to us, to you and to America as a whole. The ability we enjoy in this country to efficiently and affordably move people and products from virtually any medium in large communities — and many small communities — on one side of the country to a counterpart on the other side is a byproduct of the hub-and-spoke networks developed by airlines over the last few decades.

From an American Airlines perspective, our hub-and-spoke system enables us to use our aircraft very productively. By organizing our network around hubs, we are able to, in effect, multiply the number of products we offer. For example, if we were to use 25 airplanes to connect 25 point A’s to 25 point B’s, we would serve just 25 city-pairs. But when we use those same aircraft to fly from 25 cities on one side of a hub into the hub and then on to 25 places on the other side, we connect between 625 city-pairs.

I can hear you thinking, “That’s great for American,­ but what’s in it for me?” The answer is: a lot, especially if you live in one of our hub ­cities — which inevitably get more nonstop service than they would otherwise — or if you live in one of the dozens of communities (many of them small or medium-sized) that enjoy convenient access to our vast global network thanks to the connecting power of our hubs.

That probably sounds kind of abstract, so let me illustrate with an example I know many of us can relate to at this time of year. John from Austin, Texas, is an avid Ohio State football fan and wants to travel to Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 28 to see his beloved Buckeyes take on the Badgers from the University of Wisconsin. While no airline flies direct from Austin to Columbus, our connecting hub at Dallas/Fort Worth will make it possible for John to leave home at a reasonable hour and make the 8 p.m. kickoff, with plenty of time for pregame tailgating.

That’s a pretty remarkable service to offer, considering that not very many people actually travel from Austin to Columbus on a given day. What makes it economically feasible for us to provide that service is the number of passengers we carry from Austin to DFW who connect on to other places. Let’s say the Austin-to-DFW flight carries 100 passengers. Of those, John may be the only one actually headed to Columbus. Perhaps 40 will finish their journey in North Texas, while the other 59 continue to Tokyo, London, Sáo Paulo, New York, Seattle, Minneapolis, or any of the dozens of other destinations we serve directly from DFW. The power of the hub-and-spoke system is that while their final destinations vary widely, all those people begin their journey flying Austin to DFW together.

As John settles into the DFW-Columbus leg of his trip, he’ll no doubt be joined by Buckeye fans from Denver, Albuquerque and other points of origin who were brought together by both the love of their team and the connecting power of our DFW hub. And whether the Buckeyes win or lose, we’ll be able to get them home the next day too.

To me, sports and travel have always gone hand in hand. But as a Texan, I have to remind myself that not everybody is football crazy this time of year. To borrow a phrase, there is a wide world of sports out there to discover. And whether your passion takes you to next month’s World Series or to next year’s World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, the people of American Airlines — my favorite team and the true power of our global network — is ready to help.

Wherever you’re going today, for whatever reason, I want to thank you for including us in your plans. Have a great trip!

Signatureof Thomas Horton
Thomas W. Horton
Chairman & CEO
American Airlines