Deep in the Heart: When it comes to air service, there’s no messing with Texas

Dec 9 2013In the state capitol building of Texas, on the floor directly under the rotunda (which stands taller than the U.S. capitol), are the seals of six nations whose flags have flown over Texas at various times. The U.S. seal is just one among five equally sized ones (along with Spain, France, Mexico and the Confederate States) that surround the most prominent seal of all: that of the Republic of Texas.

The rest of the country can interpret that however it chooses.

Nobody ever praised Texas for its humility. But the state can back up the bragging—particularly in the realm of air service.

Texas not only has more air service than all of India, with its 1.2b people. It also has considerably more air service than Italy, and about as much as France or Spain (according to an Airline Weekly analysis using Diio Mi), even though those countries have roughly double the population of Texas, on average, and are far more popular tourist destinations. Texas also has nearly as much air service as California despite the latter’s far larger population and more popular tourist attractions.

Texas is home to what, starting today, is the world’s biggest airline (newly merged American). And for four decades it has been home to what was long the world’s most successful airline, Southwest, which invented the LCC model out of necessity back when it was only allowed to fly intra-Texas routes. A third airline, United, has its busiest hub in Texas (Houston) even though, in a rare defeat, the state lost an airline headquarters when Continental and United merged and decided to make Chicago their joint home.

And Texas does all this despite not really being superlative at any one thing in the airline world. It doesn’t have one giant airline market like New York City, which (counting all its airports) is the country’s largest and the world’s second largest (after London). It doesn’t have the world’s busiest airport (that’s Atlanta). Despite a fair amount of service to Mexico and elsewhere, it doesn’t feature an airport like Miami that dominates Latin America nor—despite growing service to Asia—one like Los Angeles that’s the top airport to that region. And within a state that outpunches its weight in general are…

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