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cdarr

Airline Hubs

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With Northwest Airlines going into bankruptcy, there is increased speculation that the NW hub in Memphis may be downsized or shut down completely. An economist at the Univ. of Memphis was recently quotes as saying this would be "devastating" to Memphis. Do you agree? I'm particularly interested in the opinion of Nashvillians who remember the closure of the American hub around 1996.

Here's my opinion...while I do not particularly want NW to leave, I do not think it would be devastating. There would certainly be some immediate losses - jobs, non-stop flights (include to Europe), airport revenues. Beyond that, I can see some benefits for Memphis travellers. Airfares would likely come down, especially if Southwest began service here. A significant number of people now drive to Little Rock or even Nashville to catch Southwest flights, and this would no longer be necessary. At any rate, there would be more choices as other carriers added some capacity to serve the market. Although there would be a reduced number of non-stop destinations, the flights would be spread throughout the day rather than being primarily bunched into 3 push periods (9am, 2pm, 7pm) as they are with NW...this would make for more convenient schedules.

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I only remember thinking having a AA hub was cool Then, they closed it. I hardly noticed since I'm not a frequent traveler, but I believe your right cd, the hub and spoke scheduling, i.e. NW, is inconvenient. I just know that we can get just about anywhere, anytime, and do it cheaply.

The airport seems to be doing fine, even now, as the Authority spends nearly $40 million to upgrade and renovate our already cool terminals. Don't fret a possible closure of a NW hub. Hubs aren't the picture of efficency anyway, and for the casual traveler, it seems the personal wallet takes a huge position on that matter. And benefits greatly.

Southwest is the best thing to happen around here in a long time.

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I think the benefit is more non-stop flights around the country (and the world). I think it's kind of nice that we can go to Amsterdam non-stop. But we need connecting traffic to get that. When they went to the fourth bank, it made it a little more convenient (compared to how inconvenient it had been before).

The pricing is an issue, but it's going to go down regardless (b/c of the coming Tunica threat). So MEM can make a preemptive strike by going all out to pursue a Jet blue or something.

But the Memphis economy relies on its airport more than any other city its size or larger in the country. That's where the devastation comes from. Something like 1/4 jobs in the city is related to the airport. The passenger side may not be as big as the cargo side, but it's still a lot of folks, and a big boost to the chamber of commerce's ability to recruit.

Maybe NWA will refocus as a low-fare airline? Wait a minute, nevermind.

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I think the benefit is more non-stop flights around the country (and the world). I think it's kind of nice that we can go to Amsterdam non-stop. But we need connecting traffic to get that. When they went to the fourth bank, it made it a little more convenient (compared to how inconvenient it had been before).

The pricing is an issue, but it's going to go down regardless (b/c of the coming Tunica threat). So MEM can make a preemptive strike by going all out to pursue a Jet blue or something.

But the Memphis economy relies on its airport more than any other city its size or larger in the country. That's where the devastation comes from. Something like 1/4 jobs in the city is related to the airport. The passenger side may not be as big as the cargo side, but it's still a lot of folks, and a big boost to the chamber of commerce's ability to recruit.

i thought the majority of those jobs dealt with Fed Ex, Not NW?

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I think NWA employs something on the order of 2300 in Memphis. I would imagine that also includes its Airlink subsidiary Pinnacle.

FedEx employs something like 30,000.

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But the Memphis economy relies on its airport more than any other city its size or larger in the country. That's where the devastation comes from. Something like 1/4 jobs in the city is related to the airport. The passenger side may not be as big as the cargo side, but it's still a lot of folks, and a big boost to the chamber of commerce's ability to recruit.

The jobs worry me the most. I don't know exactly how many people NW and Airlink employ here for hub operations. I've heard the figure 3,000 bantered about. The net loss of jobs probably wouldn't be 3,000 for several reasons, namely because while NW would decrease its operations, other airlines would increase flights somewhat and that would require staffing increases on their parts. But the job loss would still be substantial - at least 50% or more.

I always used to believe that having a hub helped the city recruit business, but now I'm not so sure. It may be a factor, but I've never seen anything to suggest it was a major, deciding factor in attracting any new business. I've actually heard that the negative of higher airfares more than outweighs the nonstop flights for most business travellers. And the NW schedule here is setup to be more convenient for the spokes than for the hub, anyway.

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Unfortunately the reality of today's airline industry is the high paying union airline job is in jeopardy. A lot of them are going to go away.

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The jobs worry me the most. I don't know exactly how many people NW and Airlink employ here for hub operations. I've heard the figure 3,000 bantered about. The net loss of jobs probably wouldn't be 3,000 for several reasons, namely because while NW would decrease its operations, other airlines would increase flights somewhat and that would require staffing increases on their parts. But the job loss would still be substantial - at least 50% or more.

I always used to believe that having a hub helped the city recruit business, but now I'm not so sure. It may be a factor, but I've never seen anything to suggest it was a major, deciding factor in attracting any new business. I've actually heard that the negative of higher airfares more than outweighs the nonstop flights for most business travellers. And the NW schedule here is setup to be more convenient for the spokes than for the hub, anyway.

Regardless of whether Memphis loses its hub, the airline is laying off people nationwide.

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The answer to your question "airline hubs: are they important?" depends on who you ask. Ask Atlantians how many stops it takes to get anywhere in the US and they will tell you that Delta will get you almost anywhere non-stop. As for Memphis, Northwest doesn't have too many non-stop flights from Memphis. The nonstops that Northwest does have are terribly expensive.

Perhaps the better scenario is not having a hub (e.g., Nashville) and fostering a bit of competition by providing a low-cost carrier such as Southwest. That brings down prices outbound and inbound, you get more travelers, and, importantly for Memphis, more tourists.

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The answer to your question "airline hubs: are they important?" depends on who you ask. Ask Atlantians how many stops it takes to get anywhere in the US and they will tell you that Delta will get you almost anywhere non-stop. As for Memphis, Northwest doesn't have too many non-stop flights from Memphis. The nonstops that Northwest does have are terribly expensive.

Perhaps the better scenario is not having a hub (e.g., Nashville) and fostering a bit of competition by providing a low-cost carrier such as Southwest. That brings down prices outbound and inbound, you get more travelers, and, importantly for Memphis, more tourists.

Memphis has tons of nonstops. But I too would rather have a JetBlue or Southwest:

Northwest nonstops:

Atlanta

Birmingham

Baton Rouge

Nashville

Boston

Austin

Baltimore

Chattanooga

Cleveland

Charlotte

Columbus MS

Cincinnati

Dayton

Washington DC

Denver

Dallas

Des Moines

Gulfport

Gainesville FL

Greenville MS

Fort Smith AR

Fort Lauderdale

Newark

NYC

Evansville IN

Detroit

Little Rock

Lafayette LA

Lexington KY

Los Angeles

Jacksonville

Jackson MS

Las Vegas

Wichita

Indianapolis

Lincoln NE

Petit Jean Airport AR

Kansas City

Orlando

Chicago

Montgomery

Miami

Milwaukee

Quad Cities

Monroe LA

Mobile

Sheffield AL

Madison WI

Minneapolis

New Orleans

Oklahoma City

Omaha

Paducah KY

Pensacola

Philadelphia

Phoenix

Hattiesburg MS

Pittsburgh

Pensacola

Raleigh

Richmond

San Antonio

Louisville

Seattle

San Francisco

Springfield/Branson MO

Shreveport

St. Louis

Tallahassee

Tampa

Johnson City/Bristol/Kingsport TN

Tulsa

Tupelo

Knoxville

Ft. Walton Beach FL

Fayetteville AR

Toronto Canada

Vancouver Canada

Cancun Mexico

Montego Bay Jamaica

Amsterdam Netherlands

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The nonstops that Northwest does have are terribly expensive.

Case in point...I just booked flights for eight people coming to Memphis for an event in October...more than six weeks advance notice with a Saturday night stay. I didn't book a single one of them on NW even though 6 of the 8 could have flown in nonstop on NW. Fares were just too high.

Perhaps the better scenario is not having a hub (e.g., Nashville) and fostering a bit of competition by providing a low-cost carrier such as Southwest. That brings down prices outbound and inbound, you get more travelers, and, importantly for Memphis, more tourists.

I tend to agree. Losing the hub would result in fewer flights but more inbound/outbound passengers. Besides, with the increasing popularity of 50-70 seat regional jets, most of the nonstop destination with significant demand will probably be picked up by some other carrier.

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The benefit of having a lower-fare airline would be that the number of folks that head to LR and Nash will stay around, boosting even further the O/D numbers that outsiders often mock about MEM.

It would be a shame to lose international flights, though. If we keep the hub, I think an Asian flight would be very likely in the near future.

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The benefit of having a lower-fare airline would be that the number of folks that head to LR and Nash will stay around, boosting even further the O/D numbers that outsiders often mock about MEM.

It would be a shame to lose international flights, though. If we keep the hub, I think an Asian flight would be very likely in the near future.

I hope you keep your hub, too. After Northwset comes out of bankruptcy (hopefully) the new airline will probably have a lower cost strucure than ever before. Then maybe all those high non-stop fares through Memphis won't be so high any more. In the long run, the only way that Northwest can survive is to be more cost competitive, so I think what I'm describing is a fairly likely scenario. If Northwest does go kaput, then I do believe a low cost carrier will move in, just like Southwest moving into Nashville. There was some pain for a couple of years, due to some lost jobs. But once Southwest got geared up, jobs came back, the airport grew, and people in Nashville benefitted from lower fares. In my opinion, a repeat of this process is a likely event in Memphis should Northwest go belly up.

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Hey, all! I'm back (and have learned to hold my tongue), so this thread really interested me. In all honesty, I don't see the Memphis closing. I see it being altered drastically should Northwest and Delta merge, for obviously the dominant hub would be located in Atlanta. However, I can't see Atlanta adding another 250 or so flights to its overcrowded field. I've been on airliners.net for quite some time, and the only expansion at Hartsfield is another terminal in the distant futurel; however, most of the gates are for other airlines instead of Delta or Northwest/Delta. Should we see a merger between the two airlines, I see Memphis becoming a secondary Southern hub with similar flight numbers (primarily RJs for southern routes and mainline for flights beyond the Southeast) and additional international flights (it's rumored that Memphis would finally get a Tokyo flight with increased European service and serve as a base for some South American flights). Should the Northwest base at MEM close (which I've been believing as the fate of the hub for about a year), I see Northwest keeping MEM as a focus city with JetBlue and Southwest coming in to fill in the rest of the terminal space. Personally, I see the Memphis hub has to remain in some form simply because of its location. Even if Atlanta were to become a Northwest hub due to a merger, it simply can't handle many more flights. Many destinations offered through Memphis aren't ones with Delta service. These are sites that bring a profit for Northwest, and the airline execs can't afford to close such lucrative locations. Memphis will most likely be a strengthened Southern hub should Northwest avoid a merger or it will be a smaller hub in the South to be a relief to Atlanta.

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Southwest was the best thing for Nashville after American pulled out. That really shot the airport in the arm.

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In all honesty, I don't see the Memphis closing. I see it being altered drastically should Northwest and Delta merge, for obviously the dominant hub would be located in Atlanta. However, I can't see Atlanta adding another 250 or so flights to its overcrowded field. I've been on airliners.net for quite some time, and the only expansion at Hartsfield is another terminal in the distant futurel; however, most of the gates are for other airlines instead of Delta or Northwest/Delta.

I've been on airliners.net too. Frankly, I just can't make up my mind what NW will do with this hub, and I agree that much of it has to do with their fate after Ch. 11 - stand-alone or merger. If they don't merge with another airline that has a major southern hub - Delta (ATL), Continental (IAH) or American (DFW), I think NW will likely keep the Memphis hub. It wouldn't make any sense for them to relocate the hub to another city, they can't make all the same connections through their Twin Cities or Detroit hubs, and they certainly won't just give up their southeastern routes.

If they do merge, especially with Delta, things get more shaky. I agree that there is no way ATL can handle another 200+ flights without just exacerbating the already-chronic delays there. However, part of the strategy of merging DL and NW would be to reduce total capacity so they might be able to make it all work in ATL. One thought...perhaps AirTran would feel enough of a squeeze with an expanded DL/NW presence in ATL that they would shift some connecting action here - making it a focus city or "minihub" much like Southwest did in Nashville.

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I've been on airliners.net too. Frankly, I just can't make up my mind what NW will do with this hub, and I agree that much of it has to do with their fate after Ch. 11 - stand-alone or merger. If they don't merge with another airline that has a major southern hub - Delta (ATL), Continental (IAH) or American (DFW), I think NW will likely keep the Memphis hub. It wouldn't make any sense for them to relocate the hub to another city, they can't make all the same connections through their Twin Cities or Detroit hubs, and they certainly won't just give up their southeastern routes.

If they do merge, especially with Delta, things get more shaky. I agree that there is no way ATL can handle another 200+ flights without just exacerbating the already-chronic delays there. However, part of the strategy of merging DL and NW would be to reduce total capacity so they might be able to make it all work in ATL. One thought...perhaps AirTran would feel enough of a squeeze with an expanded DL/NW presence in ATL that they would shift some connecting action here - making it a focus city or "minihub" much like Southwest did in Nashville.

I personally see that a merger with Delta is the only merger with a possibility for Memphis to retain its NWA hub. Personally, I would think Minneapolis should close before Memphis if NWA were to remain merger-less simply because it is relatively close to Detroit and the focus cities in Indianapolis and Milwaukee. That or the two focus cities could close. I still believe that a NW/Delta result would have Atlanta covering the eastern seabord, Europe, some Asian destinations, and scattered service in the West. I could see Memphis getting more RJ friendly with it resulting as a major hub for the southern destinations served only by NW as well as offering more flights to the West as well as scattered flights to major cities, Europe, and South America. This may just be a pipe dream, but look at Memphis...it is a way to solve the congestion issues seen at all hubs right now! How many times do we see articles on how crammed in the major hubs are? Lots! Hartsfield, O'hare, DFW, Houston, JFK, LGA, Newark, etc. are all maxing out on the capacity levels. Here is an airport with 95 gates, great runways with all but one capable for widebodies. It's been brought up to qualifications for the A380, and the terminals are all getting renovated to accomodate more connecting passengers. Some company should snatch at the option for a less congested hub that will offer smooth connections. 30 minute connections are a piece of cake at Memphis, even during the peak of a bank of flights. Northwest should either realize the gold mine it's sitting on (there's a reason the Amsterdam flight has been lucrative in its 10-year span) or get out and let Jet Blue or Air Tran establish a hub.

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This may just be a pipe dream, but look at Memphis...it is a way to solve the congestion issues seen at all hubs right now! How many times do we see articles on how crammed in the major hubs are? Lots! Hartsfield, O'hare, DFW, Houston, JFK, LGA, Newark, etc. are all maxing out on the capacity levels. Here is an airport with 95 gates, great runways with all but one capable for widebodies. It's been brought up to qualifications for the A380, and the terminals are all getting renovated to accomodate more connecting passengers. Some company should snatch at the option for a less congested hub that will offer smooth connections.

The congestion issue...this is exactly what I've been saying ever since the NW/DL merger talks began. Unfortunately, it may take government regulation to force the airlines to funnel more connecting traffic through mid-sized cities like Memphis. The airlines what to have their cake and eat it too. They want to make everyone connect through the big markets so they can simultaneously offer an abundance of nonstop flights to the people living there. Problem is, the airports can't expand fast enough to support the local traffic, much less all the connections.

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Besides, with the increasing popularity of 50-70 seat regional jets, most of the nonstop destination with significant demand will probably be picked up by some other carrier.

But that's the problem, take away the hub and there goes a good chunk of demand! Even with the regional jets, it's easy to loose some direct routes. (Plus, while the regional jets are probably profitable, I'd take a 757/767/777 any day!!)

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But that's the problem, take away the hub and there goes a good chunk of demand! Even with the regional jets, it's easy to loose some direct routes. (Plus, while the regional jets are probably profitable, I'd take a 757/767/777 any day!!)

Exactly! Not to get too airline sentimental, but I'd be quasi-depressed to go to MEM and not see a few DC-10s/A330s/757s/767s/etc! RJs and small mainline aircraft are cool, but nothing beats seeing a commercial widebody knowing that the people inside are being hauled to Amsterdam or arriving from some tropical location!

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But that's the problem, take away the hub and there goes a good chunk of demand! Even with the regional jets, it's easy to loose some direct routes. (Plus, while the regional jets are probably profitable, I'd take a 757/767/777 any day!!)

Taking the hub away will affect supply, not demand. The need/desire of Memphians to travel would not go down due to fewer flights. I don't think many people would call off their trip because they can't get a non-stop flight.

In fact, the demand by people flying in/out of Memphis (not connecting) would likely increase if airfares fall. And a drop in airfares is likely because Memphis currently has some of the nation's highest airfares due to the dominance of NW. Bring in some Southwest flights, and the people who drive to Little Rock and Nashville to catch flights will start flying through MEM.

I also like to see the larger guage jets come through, but unfortunately all the airlines are parking them in favor of regionals. As it is, NW uses mainline aircraft on only 89 of its 231 daily flights here...and that will probably drop some more with their upcoming cuts.

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Taking the hub away will affect supply, not demand. The need/desire of Memphians to travel would not go down due to fewer flights. I don't think many people would call off their trip because they can't get a non-stop flight.

In fact, the demand by people flying in/out of Memphis (not connecting) would likely increase if airfares fall. And a drop in airfares is likely because Memphis currently has some of the nation's highest airfares due to the dominance of NW. Bring in some Southwest flights, and the people who drive to Little Rock and Nashville to catch flights will start flying through MEM.

I also like to see the larger guage jets come through, but unfortunately all the airlines are parking them in favor of regionals. As it is, NW uses mainline aircraft on only 89 of its 231 daily flights here...and that will probably drop some more with their upcoming cuts.

I hear what you're saying... I guess it depends on how one views supply and demand though I think we're saying the same thing. The way I see it, the total number of passengers (whether Memphians or connecting passengers) creates the demand, thus increasing the supply of outgoing flights. Taking the hub away would remove the connecting passengers, therefore less demand. I totally agree with you that Memphians are not going to change their trip plans because they can't get a non-stop flight.

Now going back to the original question of the forum, are hubs important... Well, in my opinion, I think they are very important for several reasons...

First, more direct flights. Regardless of aircraft size, I just think it's better to have - for example - six daily non-stops to LGA instead of two. It's just simply more convenient to be able to catch a nonstop flight at regular intervals throughout the day, as opposed to arranging your day around a 6am or 7pm flight. Yes, people will connect when they have to, but that would never be their first choice...

Second, hubs seem to be an important factor when large corporations are looking for a new home. Having more frequent direct flights to more destinations just makes doing business that much easier.

Third, if indeed a hub could help snag corporate relocations, this will be a major contributor to population growth. Not everyone associates bigger with better, but look at Atlanta. In my opinion, having one of the world's busiest airports and a major Delta hub has certainly been one of several key contributors to the city's explosion.

Fourth, and this is just an ego trip, it's pretty cool to have at least a few widebodies sitting around ready to jet off to some faraway destination. Sure this is just image, but let's face it, image sells. (Yes, airlines may be parking the widebodies in favor of regionals, but only when the demand isn't there to fill the seats.)

Are hubs important? Yes, though cities can and do prosper without them. Memphis will be fine if NW pulls out. Nashville seems to have done fine since AA closed its hub years ago. The local consumers should see some lower fares through increased competition. Yet when weighing the pros and cons, I think having a major hub is an overall asset....

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First, more direct flights. Regardless of aircraft size, I just think it's better to have - for example - six daily non-stops to LGA instead of two. It's just simply more convenient to be able to catch a nonstop flight at regular intervals throughout the day, as opposed to arranging your day around a 6am or 7pm flight.

Too bad the MEM hub's schedule isn't all that convenient. If you want to do a same day trip, NW doesn't do any good. You couldn't leave until around 9:00am, meaning at 10:00-12:00 arrival at your destination. And you would have do catch a 3:00-4:00 return flight to get back. It was a little better when they had 4 banks of flights instead of just 3.

Second, hubs seem to be an important factor when large corporations are looking for a new home. Having more frequent direct flights to more destinations just makes doing business that much easier.

That's undoubtedly true in markets where there are (a) an abundance of convenient arrivals/departures to everywhere, and (B) the hub carrier doesn't charge premium fares due to a near-monopoly status. Since neither is the case with the Memphis hub, I don't know if it really does much good in attracting new business.

Third, if indeed a hub could help snag corporate relocations, this will be a major contributor to population growth. Not everyone associates bigger with better, but look at Atlanta. In my opinion, having one of the world's busiest airports and a major Delta hub has certainly been one of several key contributors to the city's explosion.

It's always difficult to separate how much the city benefits from the hub and how much the hub benefits from being in a big, growing city. It's kind of a chicken-and-the-egg thing. But there's no doubt that Atlanta has reaped great benefits from being the home base of Delta - much like Memphis has from being the home of FedEx.

Fourth, and this is just an ego trip, it's pretty cool to have at least a few widebodies sitting around ready to jet off to some faraway destination. Sure this is just image, but let's face it, image sells. (Yes, airlines may be parking the widebodies in favor of regionals, but only when the demand isn't there to fill the seats.)

I know what you mean - it's a cool feeling to know that people from other cities across the country are connecting in Memphis. Especially the international flights.

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Oh, just as a little update on this issue: Northwest has only dropped 2 mainline flights from its MEM schedule. And both are seasonal that revert to regional status in the winter anyway, so Memphis seems to have been spared for the time being! Ah, one flight is a MEM-MIA and the other is MEM-Ft. Lauderdale. And both return in the Spring, so it's nothing to write to grandma about. It's gonna be weird crossing that waning picket line at the airport tomorrow (college visit to Philadelphia and Jersey), but I'll be interested to see how progress is going with the revamps.

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Oh, just as a little update on this issue: Northwest has only dropped 2 mainline flights from its MEM schedule. And both are seasonal that revert to regional status in the winter anyway, so Memphis seems to have been spared for the time being! Ah, one flight is a MEM-MIA and the other is MEM-Ft. Lauderdale. And both return in the Spring, so it's nothing to write to grandma about. It's gonna be weird crossing that waning picket line at the airport tomorrow (college visit to Philadelphia and Jersey), but I'll be interested to see how progress is going with the revamps.

Well, it is encouraging that they haven't cut more flights. But I'm not sure how much they can really cut and still operate a bona fide hub. It's about as lean as it gets already. Oddly enough, it is possible that Memphis may actually see an increase in NW traffic from all this. Much of what NW is cutting seems to be point-to-point stuff that bypasses the hubs. They may try to channel more traffic back through the hubs.

There have been rumors about NW pulling out of here for as long as I can remember. We'll see.

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