Seeking efficiency, American Airlines will start a ‘banked hub’ in Miami on August 19

American is changing the way it schedules flights at its Miami hub. Photo: American.

American is changing the way it schedules flights at its Miami hub. Photo: American.

American Airlines will begin “banking” its flights at its Miami International Airport hub on August 19, the carrier told employees in a Thursday communique.

American said in December that this change would be coming, a story covered well by the Dallas Morning News. American is now saying the changes will be visible to customers with Miami flights starting this weekend.  Other hubs will eventually switch, too.

First for our novice readers. What is banking? Banking means that most flights arrive and depart at the same time. For example, American might schedule many flights to arrive in Miami at around 1 p.m. Then at 2:30 p.m., American would schedule all those flights to leave, also at nearly the same time. This is efficient for the airline. It also can be helpful for customers, because the entire schedule is built on making sure passengers can make connecting flights with short layovers. (It also means airports with banked hubs can be very crowded during the banks.)

Almost every airline uses banked hubs. But for several years, American has been using what it calls “rolling hubs.” Essentially this means American schedules flights on a seemingly random basis, all day. Customers still make a lot of connections, but the entire system is not built to facilitate short layovers.

Here’s the new plan at Miami, American wrote to employees.

“In the new banked structure, flights are generally grouped to either arrive or depart from geographical locations at certain times of the day. For example, in MIA flights from the south will arrive into the hub within a certain period of time, allowing customers to connect to flights headed north shortly thereafter.”

American thinks customers win here. What do you think?

“For customers, banking increases the number of connecting options available from a given flight. More connections, more opportunities,” American told employees. “For the company, it gives us the ability to make changes to the fleet so that we’re putting the right size aircraft on the right route, better matching customer demand. And more demand typically translates into higher load factors and improved financial results. It’s a win-win for all.”

American included a chart of flights throughout the day in Miami under the current system:

American MIAAnd a chart showing how flights will flow in Miami starting on August 19.

American MIA new

 

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  • Gary Leff

    This is a more convenient model for customers, and should generate revenue. But it’s a higher cost model as well. The airline has to staff up to meet the surge, and then you’re paying those same staff to wait around for the next surge. You also don’t get perfection with every flight coming in and departing and no planes at the airport in the meantime — so you get those extra planes waiting around for the next bank of departures which is expensive in its own way (it can reduce aircraft utilization). On net I like it but there’s something to be said for both models — the model of “people waiting on planes rather than planes waiting on people” is one that Airtran, for instance, did pretty well with.

    • Brad Johnson

      And just a little weather and you have chaos and mis-connects galore, not to mention that I bet they will have LOTS of hold-outs meaning LOTS of aircraft holding out for a gate. This will be interesting to watch :)

      • Brian

        In a weather related delay they have plenty of what would have been down time at MIA to catch up. South Florida weather events don’t last more than an hour before the sun is back out.

        Also, it’s extremely hard to have missed connections when the airport is stopped for weather. Besides, in the event of bad weather, they’re far more likely to hold departures. Aircraft inbound can easily just go into holding patterns for a few minutes.

  • Turbo Baddy

    Why does that American Airlines plane have german registration and a german flag on the tail?

    • Jeremy Murphy

      ^ it’s a test flight from Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer before delivery to American

      • Turbo Baddy

        D’oh. Of course!

        I thought it was a computer rendering, the picture is so crisp and clean.

        • Brian

          They just slap those stickers on there because Airbus still owns the plane. They can’t use an American Reg #/AmericanAirlines Reg # when AA doesn’t have legal ownership of the plane.

          Same concept as a dealer plate when you go car shopping.

  • mavcable

    Turbo: That photo was taken while that Airbus aircraft was still operating test flights in Europe before being delivered to American in Dallas.

  • Brian Sumers

    Everyone is right about the German registration on the Airbus airplane. I believe that was American’s first A319, and the airline sent out the picture to media. I’ve been using it as a generic American Airline photo ever since. It’s hard to come up with a better picture to show banking, you know? Maybe one of a really crowded terminal? Thanks for reading.

  • Noel Padilla Sr.

    Large corporations love to experiment with investors money. AA was a pioneer of the hub and spoke system and moved to a rolling hub to supposedly use aircraft more efficiently-now they are reversing course. Obviously the ten year experiment failed all the way into bankruptcy. I really can’t understand why this examples of failure are news fodder.

  • Jeff Richmond

    They’ll have a very hard time moving in this direction at LAX – there just aren’t enough gates to have more flights arriving at the same time.

    • Brian

      LA is a lot of O&D though. If they’re running at capacity pretty much all day with their gates, that is basically one giant bank. The point is to have passengers avoid large lulls in activity at the airport in terms of options.

      Also, there really isn’t a lot of domestic transfer traffic for them at LAX due to geography and expecting or booking a international-domestic tight connection, especially at LAX is a bad idea.

  • Brian Sumers

    Yes, Jeff. I think you’re exactly right about the gate problem at LAX. Eventually, when they’re permitted to under the merger agreement, they could scale back their LAX operation and then bank what remains. But it will be interesting to see what happens.

    • Brian

      But scaling back at one of the largest, most competitive and Premium markets in America is a very bad idea financially. They can eliminate redundant flights, sure, but use that extra plane and gate to open up new markets.

      Don’t back down, just redeploy assets to capture more markets.

  • John O’Toole

    Miami is a difficult place for an effective airline hub. There really is no east or west traffic; and for north and south; almost everything south is international and highly low yielding traffic; northern cities with large population bases are far away.

    • Brian

      North Cities are far away? Hardly, Boston is 2-3 hours.

      The deep south international flights will probably be set up as red eyes, arriving in Miami around 7am, these flights in addition to western US red eyes can provide passengers for domestic and Caribbean fleet that RON at MIA.

      Those red eye deep SA planes can be turned for a daytime flight to EU. To facilitate the nighttime southward flights to SA they can use the incoming westbound eastern daytime flights to then deploy southward internationally.

      With the daytime domestic Ops, they can use the first morning MIA inbounds to mirror those inbound internationals.

      One World Partners into MIA will likely mirror these banks of outbound southern internationals to facilitate connections, since that is really the only logical connection points for someone coming from BA or another partner airline.

      As you mentioned, MIA is really a north south connection point, but it also is extremely O&D heavy. Connecting just two directions primarly makes it far easier compared to ORD, ATL or any other hub that can logically serve many pax going various other directions