Big moves are afoot in the global airline industry. In the past ten years, The American airline industry has been characterized by ever-larger mergers resulting in the situation that we have today. A consequence of these mergers is the elimination of hubs that are no longer making money in smaller travel markets.
Many of the airports listed below saw millions of people and thousands of flights per day going to many destinations around the world. Most of these cities lost their hub status as a result of mergers or bankruptcies. Some of these cities rebounded to a large extent, thanks to the entry of low cost carriers, but these airports lost thousands of flights and millions of passengers over the years, never to return to these levels.
Airports that lose their hub statuses are not good for the financial stability of the airport or the region around them. It also negatively affects their image and tends to result in cutbacks that leave large buildings empty and prompt loss of jobs in the regions around them, both airport and non-airport related.
Here are some airports that are either in the process of losing passenger numbers or lost passengers over the years and have large empty terminals and concourses as a result.
Port Columbus International Airport
Port Columbus Airport in the middle of Ohio has historically struggled with finding tenants to fill its large terminal. It was a hub for America West Airlines until 2003 and Skybus Airlines in 2008, but it has not been able to find long term stability in flights. Before the 2000’s, Columbus was also a major airport for TWA, which it held for a long time. The airport has large terminals and many gates, but still struggles with filling them.
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport has a very unique relationship with United Airlines. Originally, United Airlines had a large hub at Cleveland up until the 1980’s, when United pulled out its large operation in favor of Washington Dulles International Airport. After that, Continental Airlines quickly filled in that gap in service and became the third-largest hub for the airline after Continental pulled out of Denver in 1993.
When Continental and United merged in 2010, Cleveland was again at risk. Cleveland finally received the bad news in January of 2014 and will fully de-hub in June of 2014. After that, Concourse D will probably sit empty as costs are cut in the wake of decreasing revenues. Cleveland also now holds the distinction of being de-hubbed twice by the same airline, United.
Memphis International Airport
Memphis was dealt a blow in 2012 when Delta Airlines announced that it would de-hub in Memphis after cutting flights year after year since Delta bought Northwest Airlines in 2008. Memphis is only a few hundred miles to the west of the largest Delta hub in Atlanta, which also happens to be the busiest airport in the world.
Memphis was originally a hub for Southern Airlines, Republic Airlines, and Northwest Airlines over the years of various mergers. Delta finally pulled the cord on its unprofitable hub and is now slowly being filled by low cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines.
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
The airport in Cincinnati was once the third busiest hub for Delta Airlines from the 1980’s to the merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008. After that happened, Delta cut flights at this airport as well, due to the fact that Delta inherited two massive midwest hubs in the merger with Northwest. The second largest hub for Delta Airlines is now a few hundred miles to the north of Cincinnati at Detroit.
As a result of this reality, Delta slowly cut back on its flights over the years and resulted in the closing of two terminals and one other concourse. Today, planes and passengers that once filled three terminals and three concourses now fill one terminal and two concourses. Delta still considers Cincinnati a hub, but it is now the smallest domestic hub for the airline.
Lambert St. Louis International Airport
Lambert/St. Louis International Airport was once one of the busiest airports in the country thanks to Trans World Airlines (TWA) and the hub that it built there in the 1980’s and continued until it was bought by American Airlines in 2001. American Airlines originally planned on keeping the hub as an alternate to its busy Chicago hub a few hundred miles to the north.
After the September 2001 attacks, airline demand dropped and St. Louis was gradually cut back to what it is today. Half the airport still sits empty, but Southwest has built up a significant operation since the demise of TWA and the cutbacks by American Airlines, which still operates a large hub out of Chicago.
Kansas City International Airport
On the other side of Missouri, Kansas City International Airport also sits empty. The airport was a large hub for Trans World Airlines from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, when it moved operations to St. Louis after not getting the remodel that was needed.
The primary problem with Kansas City is that it is not built for the security screening that is needed today, resulting in many plans for a rebuilding of the airport from the 1980’s and continuing to this day. This necessity started with a request for TWA after these new technologies came into being. TWA was also the mastermind behind the design that we see at Kansas City today.
Pittsburgh International Airport
Pittsburgh International Airport is a large airport, with up to 25 gates cut off and a regional jet terminal that was recently demolished for staff parking. At its height, it was the largest hub for US Airways and operated as many as 500 flights per day.
After US Airways complained for many years about increased fees as a result of building a new terminal, the airline pulled out and transferred most flights to Philadelphia and Charlotte in the early 2000’s. By 2005, US Airways was pulled out fully and the airport has since struggled to fill its massively empty terminal and concourses.