When America West took over running US Airways they began to focus on strictly on hubs, eliminating point-to-point flights that didn’t tough a hub. That strategy has continued at American Airlines. Probably no airline focuses more narrowly on serving its hubs than American (while United, under leadership of former US Airways and American President Scott Kirby, is building up its hubs).
So one American Airlines route stands out to be as an aberration: Meridian, Mississippi to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. That’s a flight of just 69 miles, and it’s operated once daily in both directions with a Bombardier CRJ-200 50 seat regional jet. (HT: Kyle Stewart)
To get a quick understanding for why this route exists — and persists under current management — Glazer’s law helps do some of the lifting. Microeconomic puzzles largely fall into two categories: price discrimination and market manipulations (tax, subsidies, fraud).
Here, of course, the reason is subsidy: both Hattiesburg and Meridien are Essential Air Service cities, and American receives government money to fly passengers from both. No other airline serves either Hattiesburg or Meridien.
The annual subsidy (.pdf) at Hattiesburg is $3,113,072 and at Meridien $2,985,821. American’s regional operation is able to pick up Hattiesburg dollars not by connecting the city with its hubs — but by connecting it with Meridien which it connects to hubs.
So why provide subsidies to two airports that are 69 miles away from each other? Both are considered to have New Orleans as their closest hub, and both are more than 100 miles from New Orleans. Since Hattiesburg flights go through Meridien it’s not obvious that there’s a significant benefit to subsidizing the extra airport.
Hattiesburg, by the way, is equidistant to Gulfport–Biloxi International Airport and Jackson–Evers International Airport, and is connected via four-lane U.S. 49.