United Has No “Second Tier” Hubs on Continental USA

The news that United Airlines would soon be announcing new international routes got me interested, as it did others, in trying to guess what might be some of those new routes out of the airline’s current 7 continental-USA hubs. To help me make an educated guess, I decided to use United’s online utility that allows one to quickly generate maps of all nonstop UA destinations from any city or airport. This meant that I could generate maps of all nonstop destinations from United’s 7 continental-USA hubs to get a sense of currently under-served international destinations that the airline might want to do a better job covering. The result of this fun exercise are the 7 maps below, which correspond to nonstop destinations from each of the 7 UA hubs (indicated by a red pin on the maps.) Click on any map to enlarge it, and then view the rest sequentially by using the left and right navigation arrows.

As one can see, there is clear logic to the international destinations that the 7 UA hubs serve:

  • SFO: Gateway to Asia-Pacific + transcontinental + 6 major Western European capital cities.
  • LAX: Western USA/Hawaii + Limited Asia Pacific.
  • DEN: Uniquely domestic USA.
  • IAH: Southern USA & Latin America – truly unique hub as the only way to latam on UA.
  • ORD: Balanced to serve middle America + some key Asian and Western European capital cities.
  • IAD: Eastern USA + mostly Western European capital cities. Like LAX but in the East of USA.
  • EWR: Gateway to Western Europe + transcontinental + 6 Asian destinations (like SFO but in reverse).

 Looking at the 7 maps sequentially as shown below more clearly conveys the sense that each map plays a unique role, while also complementing the others:

The notion that any of the 7 hubs is ‘second-tier’ is thus utterly silly. In terms of volume and destination, IAD and LAX might be considered ‘second-tier’, but I doubt that that is a term that United uses or recognizes.

As for potential new international routes that UA might announce, it seems from the maps above that the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa could use better coverage.

Update: My wishful thinking about seeing UA cover new destinations in the Middle East, Eastern Europe or Africa will remain a wish, as none of the new international routes unveiled include destinations to those three regions. 😦