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High fuel costs are not the only problem bedeviling the airlines. It is time to get rid of the airport hubs; they are nothing but multipliers of congestion. Salt Lake City rejoiced when Delta opted to keep its hub here after its walk to the alter with Northwest. Delta's East Coast hub is Atlanta. Too many flights are forced through the airport; when there's a problem, the entire nervous system of American air transportation breaks down. Look at what happened last Sunday, July 13, 2008. Severe thunderstorms pummeled the airport late in the morning. The Atlanta airport shut down. The ripple effects of that decision were still felt twelve hours later, as well as into Monday and even Tuesday. I arrived at Richmond international (yes, I know everyone pretends their airport is international)at 1:30 p.m. to return my rental car. I arrived back here in Salt Lake at 1:30 a.m. If my math is right, it would take about that long to fly from San Francisco to Tokyo. My Richmond flight was delayed; but suddenly, the needlessly perky Delta "flight attendant" announced that we must immediately board the flight to Atlanta because there was "a window." She was referring to that space of time before another round of thunderstorms took aim at Atlanta. We rushed to board the flight. But all of that hurrying and exasperated anticipation was for naught. The great wait had begun. We waited and waited to take off, seems Richmond was having trouble contacting the "Washington Center" for flight instructions. They had to fit us into the script of planes, like a part in a play, that were heading south to Atlanta. When we arrived in Atlanta, we waited again. This time the wait was ninety minutes for the pilot to find a gate to park; there were thirty planes in front of us, big, lost birds sitting and idling and wasting fuel on that runway. Once I enterred the airport, It was Times Square on New Year's eve. I would estimate forty to sixty thousand in the hallway: endless lines of exhausted passengers waiting to make it up to the ticket counter now that their flight had been cancelled.
The crowds, the waiting, the man who sat on the floor because he couldn't stand up anymore- all of this would have been avoided if we weren't all forced to go through the Atlanta hub. But I will say one thing for Atlanta; their airport music is the best. I loved Gary Pucket and the Union gap.