Almost all airlines have a place they call home – the main hub, where they station crew and have their maintenance base. The United States is home to the world’s largest single airline hub, but also to more nomadic low-cost point-to-point models of operation. Let’s take a look at where the US’s major carriers like to park their wings, ranging from legacy carriers to those in the low-cost sector.

American Airlines

American Airlines, and its regional service branch American Eagle, operate out of ten hubs across the country. However, its largest is that of Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) in Texas, where it also has its headquarters. American’s operations span several terminals and make DFW the second-largest single airline hub in the world.

According to data provided by OAG, DFW is presently the fifth-busiest airport in the world in terms of available seats on the routes that it serves. This marks a significant increase compared to pre-COVID, as it ranked 14th in 2019.

Alaska Airlines

You would imagine Alaska Airlines to have its major hub in the state where it was inaugurated and for which it is named. The carrier does maintain a hub at Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC), five miles southwest of downtown Anchorage. However, one of the US’s largest carriers could be forgiven for not keeping its main activities at an airport serving a city of 288,000 people.

Alaska Airlines Airbus A321neo in the air

Alaska Airlines’ main hub isn’t in the state from which it takes its name. Photo: Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Anchorage remains one out of Alaska’s five hubs across the US, but its main home is at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington. The city of Seattle, where SEA is located, is also where Alaska Airlines has its headquarters. Before the pandemic, the airport was considered one of the fastest-growing in the US. Last year, it was the 11th-busiest in the US by passenger boardings.

Allegiant Air

Ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant operates out of various bases across the country, but its main home is at Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport (LAS), Nevada. Other main low-cost carriers, such as Frontier, Southwest, and Spirit, also list Las Vegas as a focus city. However, none of the three main US legacy carriers are present in this capacity. Las Vegas was the country’s eighth-busiest airport in 2021.

Allegiant Air Airbus A319-111 N315NV

Las Vegas is also home to Allegiant’s corporate headquarters. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta Air Lines

For some time, Delta Air Lines operated the world’s largest single airline hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia. In 2019, ATL saw 110.5 million passengers pass through its gates. This made it the busiest airport in the world by passenger numbers, followed by Beijing Capital with 100 million.

The first time ATL greeted its 100 millionth passenger in a single year was in 2015. Last year, it was the busiest airport in the US, processing more than 36 million boarding passengers. It currently ranks first in the world in terms of the busiest airports by available seats, with OAG noting that it has over 4.6 million this month.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-2Q8 N703TW (2)

Atlanta is responsible for nearly one in every six of Delta’s services. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines, a 28-year-old ultra-low-cost carrier, maintains a crew and maintenance base at Denver International Airport (DEN), Colorado. It is the largest airport in the US by land area, and Frontier is the third-largest airline to fly out of it. Denver is also known for its long runways, due to being at a high altitude.

At the end of 2019, Frontier announced that it would invest $10 million into a new training center in Orlando and open up a new base at Miami International Airport (MIA). While the events of 2020 demonstrated the fundamental uncertainty in making plans, Frontier nonetheless went ahead with both. Simple Flying took a closer look at the airline’s growth plans for Miami International Airport last year.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320-200N N308FR

As well as its Denver hub, Fonriter has focus cities across the US. Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying


Hybrid carrier JetBlue has its home base at New York’s JFK Airport. Located in Queens, it has historically been the busiest international air passenger gateway into North America. This is something that JetBlue has looked to profit from in recent years, with the launch of transatlantic services to and from London, UK.

JFK opened in July 1948, at which time it was known simply as New York International Airport. It was also known as Idlewild, the name given when the airport was first proposed, after the golf course that it would displace. It was renamed after the US’s 35th President, John F Kennedy, following his assassination in 1963.

JetBlue is expanding its international network and has launched flights to London with its Airbus A321LRs. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is a little bit of a special case in this matter, as the carrier doesn’t call its bases hubs. Instead, it has long prided itself in point-to-point routes, operating its all Boeing 737 fleet to less busy airports.

Nonetheless, the airline has identified a few main connecting airports. These include Atlanta (ATL), Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Chicago Midway (MDW), Denver (DEN), Houston Hobby (HOU), Nashville (BNA), Oakland (OAK), Phoenix (PHX) and St. Louis (STL). However, one more airport also stands out.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 N961WN (2)

Southwest’s operating model places less of an emphasis on hub airports. Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Specifically, Southwest Airlines has long had a history with Dallas Love Field (DAL), with its headquarters at the airport. Nonetheless, the firm shies away from strictly identifying with hubs, as its CCO, Andrew Watterson, told TPG in 2020:

It’s not a hub like [Dallas/Fort Worth] is a hub for American [Airlines]. We don’t schedule the whole thing for connectivity in banks. (…) There’ll be a time of day in these big cities where it’ll be scheduled for connectivity, which is what a hub is. The rest of the day is not scheduled for connectivity — connectivity happens, but it’s just a big city.”

United Airlines

United’s main hub is located at Chicago-O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois. It is also the location of the Star Alliance founding member’s headquarters. O’Hare was the busiest airport by flights operated in the US in 2019.

United Airlines Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner N13013 Vincenzo Pace

United has close ties to the city of Chicago. Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Today it has eight runways, the highest number of any airport in the world. However, it came from humble beginnings, having been constructed in 1944 to serve a Douglas manufacturing plant for C-54 Skymaster military transport planes.

How many of these airports have you flown from or to? Which of the US’s main carriers is your favorite? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Sources: OAG, The Points Guy


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