Friday, February 19, 2016

Why United Airlines should hub Orlando - Untapped Potential

United Airlines Route Map
United's Route Map - February 2016
I hate the word potential. The way I see it, it’s defined as, “hey, you could do this… but you you’re not good enough.” I believe that Orlando’s MCO airport has a lot of untapped potential. The airport is about to add an entire new South Terminal. One that makes more sense, with bigger halls, taller ceilings, and, I’m sure, just as much Mickey. The airport is opening up to new International routes, and expanding its broad spectrum of airlines. People love Orlando. (To be clear, I have no idea why. It’s hot, the traffic is bad, I hate I-4 and International Drive, and I did live there, so I can say that.)

I hate the word potential. But I love the word opportunity. Opportunity implies that I have the ability, I just have to seize the moment. United has opportunity. Look at route structures of the Big 4 (UA, AA, DL, WN), three of the four have great coverage of the southeast. United has Houston. But don’t forget, AA and WN also have a large presence in Texas as well.

I travel to Florida far too often. Once I’m here I’m stuck on the beautifully quiet (snark) SAAB 340B+. Now, I don’t mind the 340, nor do I mind Silver Airways. But picture this; you’re in Jacksonville. You want a weekend away on the beautiful island of Key West (it’s an island, right?). You hop on an E175 operated by Mesa Airlines. It’s a 20 minute hop to MCO. You enjoy a quick snack at the new Orlando airport, and then hop on another E175. You enjoy your first class flight with wifi all the way to Paradise.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Just wait, it gets better. Your boss calls you on Saturday and tells you that he needs you to help close the big deal in London on Monday. You’ve got dress clothes, and with a quick call to United, you’ve got a flight from Key West to Orlando on Sunday night and a second leg from Orlando to LHR on a 787. Pretty sweet gig, isn’t it?

The reality is that United’s route structure is great with the exception of the southeast (one could argue that the northwest struggles as well with the removal of the base at SEA, but that’s for a later post). I believe that a big part of the reason that UA and CO didn’t care about the southeast was US Airways. Codeshare flights out of CLT covered a lot of the southeast. And since the merger, there’s been no hope for the region.

The second issue came when Silver stopped being a United Express carrier and is now its own cute little airline (one with a lot of big dreams, but looks more and more like Spirit every day… I mean, have you seen their Twitter feed?).

Silver isn't a bad airline, in fact, I enjoy flying them, but I lost benefits like TSA Precheck, free bags, and the ability to earn PQS and PQM (United passengers who book on United with a valid 016 ticket can still earn PDQ).

An MCO hub would also help strengthen the relationship with Azul as Azul continues to bring more flights to Florida.

All in all, I believe that United should really consider a hub in Orlando.

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?