Point-to-point transit refers to a transportation system in which a plane, bus, or train travels directly to a destination, rather than going through a central hub. This differs from the spoke-hub distribution paradigm in which the transportation goes to a central location where passengers change to another train, bus, or plane to reach their destination.
In the airline industry, Southwest Airlines in the United States is a prominent example of an airline that uses the point-to-point transit model. For example, there is a route between Jacksonville International Airport in Jacksonville, Florida, and Norfolk International Airport in Norfolk, Virginia. Currently, Southwest Airlines actually uses a hybrid system, flying point-to-point routes, but also connecting passengers through several smaller hubs at Phoenix Sky Harbor, Las Vegas McCarran, Dallas Love, Houston Hobby, Chicago Midway, Baltimore/Washington, Lambert-St. Louis, Atlanta, and a few others. It is doubtful that there is any pure point-to-point airline, as most have at least a "homebase" airport where most flights originate or depart, which becomes a de facto hub, whether that is the intention or not. The United States airport system was point-to-point, controlled by CAB, until deregulation late 1960s/early 1970s, and eventually the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act when they switched to the hub concept, until the advent of low-cost carriers, when point-to-point air transport increased.
- It eliminates the need for connections.
- It considerably reduces travel time.
- It considerably reduces risk of baggage loss or baggage arriving much later than the passenger (due to baggage not transferred as fast as passengers)
- Total fuel and pollution per passenger is lower. E.g. A passenger flying directly from Brussels to San Francisco will burn less fuel than flying via London or New York.
- Without the need to satisfy connections for passengers, trips (e.g. flights) in a point-to-point system are less interdependent, though the operational constraints of needing to have sufficient equipment and personnel in each location at the right time to satisfy the timetable remain. This minimizes the risk of the "domino effect", in which the delayed arrival of one trip into a place (e.g. airport) leads to delayed departures of the (often) multiple trips with which its passengers had to make connections, cascading delays through the network. Therefore a point-to-point system is less prone to delays.
- It has proven advantageous in the air cargo industry, where freight is carried in the unused baggage hold space on passenger flights ("belly cargo"). Traditionally large cargo aircraft are scheduled to fly between large hubs, meaning that freight often has be forwarded on by additional flights, or by rail or road. Belly cargo carried point to point can be delivered closer to its final destination.
- If a desired origin–destination pair is not served, passengers will have to make a connection as in the hub model or travel by another mode of transportation.
- The frequency of trips may be reduced because the number of origin–destination pairs is orders of magnitude larger.
Around the world
The point-to-point model is used widely by low cost carriers, not just Southwest Airlines (although it is the most prolific), but also by European equivalents of Southwest such as Ryanair and easyJet. Some full-service network carriers operate the point-to-point model alongside the hub and spoke system for certain high-density routes between focus cities. In Europe for example, most of the traditional full service airlines operate seasonal point-to-point service outside of their hubs serving Mediterranean and Alpine holiday resorts.
However it is doubtful that there is any pure point-to-point airline, as most have at least a "homebase" airport where most flights originate or depart, which becomes a de facto hub, whether that is the intention or not.