We examine two factors that explain air traffic congestion: network benefits due to hubbing and congestion externalities. While both factors impact congestion, we find that the hubbing effect dominates empirically. Hub carriers incur most of the additional travel time from hubbing, primarily because they cluster their flights in short time spans to provide passengers as many potential connections as possible with a minimum of waiting time. Non-hub flights at the same hub airports operate with minimal additional travel time. These results suggest that an optimal congestion tax might have a relatively small impact on flight patterns at hub airports.
Mayer, Christopher, and Todd Sinai. "Network Effects, Congestion Externalities, and Air Traffic Delays: Or Why Not All Delays Are Created Evil." American Economic Review 93, no. 4 (September 2003): 1194-1215.
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