An airline hub is an airport that an airline uses to connect a significant number of connecting flights.

An example of an airline hub is Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, which is used by Delta Air Lines.

There are six major types of airline hubs, differentiated by the airline hub’s importance and use, with the world’s largest airline hubs located in the world’s most geostrategic cities.

The airports that connect with airline hubs are known as ‘spoke airports.’

The spoke and hub system lets airlines effectively provide connecting flights between locations that don’t have enough demand to justify direct flights. 

Type of Airline Hubs

There are six major types of airline hubs. 

1. Cargo hubs and Scissor Hubs

A cargo hub is used as a central point for distributing cargo and freight.

A scissor hub is a type of cargo hub that services both passengers and cargo.

2. Focus City

A focus city is an airport that’s a major hub for just one airline.

Most focus cities are located in secondary cities where airlines can capture more traffic than from a major hub.

3. Fortress Hub

A fortress hub is a major airport hub for a single airline.

Fortress hubs are usually airports in large cities that provide the airline with a strong competitive advantage over other competitors. 

4. Primary and Secondary Hub

Primary hubs are large airports with more flights and connections than secondary hubs.

Secondary hubs are smaller airports used as connecting points between primary hubs.

5. Reliever Hub

A reliever hub is any airport that functions as a secondary hub for an airline.

These are located in secondary cities and help reduce traffic at primary hubs. 

6. Moonlight Hub

Moonlight hubs serve as airport hubs at night.

Most moonlight hubs are located in secondary cities and help move cargo and passengers late at night when the airline’s primary hub is closed. 

Major Airport Hubs in the US

US airlines use the following 11 major airport hubs: 

  1. New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA): American and Delta Air Lines
  2. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL/KATL): Delta and Southwest Airlines
  3. New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): American, Delta, and JetBlue Airlines
  4. Philadelphia International Airport (PHL): American Airlines
  5. Washington Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA): American Airlines
  6. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT): American Airlines
  7. Miami International Airport (MIA): American Airlines
  8. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD): Southwest Airlines
  9. Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW): Southwest Airlines 
  10. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): American and Southwest Airlines
  11. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): Alaska, American, Delta, and Southwest Airlines

Major Airport Hubs in Europe

Most European airlines use the following five airport hubs. 

  1. London-Heathrow (LHR) in the UK (British and Virgin Airways)
  2. Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) in France (Air France)
  3. Frankfurt (FRA) in Germany (Lufthansa Airlines)
  4. Amsterdam (AMS) in the Netherlands (KLM Airlines)
  5. Barcelona (BCN) in Spain (Iberia and Ryanair). 

Major Airport Hubs in Asia

These are the six major airport hubs in Asia. 

  1. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK): Thai Airways
  2. Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH): Etihad Airline
  3. Dubai International Airport (DXB): Emirates
  4. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL): Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines
  5. Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK): Air China, China Eastern, and China Southern Airlines.
  6. Singapore’s Changi International airport (SIN): Singapore Airlines

Major Airport Hubs in South America

These are the five major airport hubs in South America: 

  1. El Dorado international airport (BOG): Avianca, Copa Airlines, and LAN Colombia
  2. Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE): Aerolineas Argentinas, LATAM Argentina
  3. Lima-Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM): LATAM Peru 
  4. Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport (GIG): Gol Airlines 
  5. Santiago-Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL): LATAM 
  6. São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU): LATAM, Avianca Brazil, Gol Airlines

Major Airport Hubs in Africa

These are the seven major airport hubs in Africa: 

  1. Addis Ababa-Bole International Airport (ADD): Ethiopian Airlines 
  2. Algiers-Houari Boumediene Airport (ALG): Air Algérie 
  3. Cairo International Airport (CAI): Air Cairo, Egypt Air
  4. Cape Town International Airport (CPT): South African Express, Mango 
  5. Casablanca-Mohammed V International Airport (CMN): Air Arabia, Royal Air Maroc 
  6. Johannesburg-O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB): South African Airways, Comair 
  7. Nairobi-Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO): Kenya Airways

Major Airport Hubs in Australia

These are the four major airport hubs in Australia.

They’re all used by Qantas Airlines, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar Airways. 

  1. Brisbane International Airport
  2. Melbourne International Airport
  3. Perth International Airport
  4. Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport

The Biggest Airport Hub in the World

The world’s biggest airport hub is Atlanta, Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

It’s the world’s largest airport hub for Delta Air Lines.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is also the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic. 

Airlines With the Most Hubs

American Airlines has ten hubs across the US, the most of any airline.

Delta Air Lines has the second most. 

Is it Cheaper to Fly From Airline Hubs?

Flying from airline hubs is generally cheaper since they have more flights to more destinations, along with more competitive prices. 

Related: What Are the Cheapest Days to Fly International?

The Difference Between an Airline Base and Hub

An airline base is an airport where an airline is headquartered and conducts its main operations from.

An airline hub is where an airline has a significant number of operations and uses the airport to connect multiple flights. 

What is a Spoke Airport?

A spoke airport connects to a hub airport to let passengers transfer to other flights.

The spoke and hub system lets airlines fly passengers from destinations with less demand. 

For example, let’s say you wanted to go from Charleston, South Carolina, to Memphis, Tennessee.

You’re unlikely to find a direct flight between these two locations.

Instead, you’ll fly from a spoke airport in Charleston to a hub in Atlanta, Georgia.

Then, you’ll take a connecting flight to Memphis. 

In conclusion:

  • An airline hub is an airport used by an airline as a major connecting point between connecting flights.
  • There are many types of airline hubs, including fortress hubs, primary hubs, cargo hubs, and moonlight hubs.
  • Most major hubs are located in major cities and allow airlines to easily fly connecting flights.
  • An airline hub isn’t the same as an airline base.
  • An airline base refers to the airports where an airline is headquartered.
  • The airports that connect with an airline hub are known as spoke airlines.
  • The hub and spoke system lets airlines easily arrange flights between destinations with low demand with connecting flights. 

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).