Hubert Horan aviation consulting



Hubert Horan began his aviation career in the early 1980s as a consultant with the firms of Cresap, McCormick and Paget and Mercer Management Consulting (formerly Strategic Planning Associates/Temple Barker & Sloane). Clients included Qantas, Air New Zealand, Philippine Airlines, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Air Canada, Canadian Airlines, TWA, United, USAirways, Pan American, People Express, Frontier, PSA, AirCal, and Amadeus.

Between 1991 and 2002 he held Network and Strategic Management positions with Northwest, America West, Swissair and Sabena.

Consulting clients in recent years have included ATA, Hawaiian Airlines, United, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, SN Brussels Airlines, Virgin Express, Air Macau and Air Pacific. He has also worked with investor groups to develop business plans for both Low Cost Airlines and airport privatization projects.

In the 1980s he developed the original plan for the TWA-Ozark merger and participated in the USAir–Piedmont and Continental-People Express mergers. He worked on a series of projects with Lufthansa and Alitalia to help them prepare for liberalization within Europe, and prepared the original plan for a Qantas-Australian-Air New Zealand merger. He has also led major cost-reduction projects across the entire range of airline marketing and operations functions, including Maintenance, Flight Operations, In-Flight Service, Sales and Distribution, Station Operations, Charter Operations and Revenue Management.

Following the 1990s industry downturn, he led the massive restructuring of Northwest’s international route network that was the key to Northwest’s financial turnaround. In a one year period, Horan cancelled over 80,000 miles of unprofitable routes, including uncompetitive hubs in Seoul, Boston and Guam, and reallocated flying to powerful hubs in Detroit, Minneapolis and Tokyo, and helped Northwest achieve industry leading profit margins only three years after a near-collapse into bankruptcy.

Horan developed and implemented the business and fleet plans that America West used to successfully emerge from bankruptcy in the mid 90s. That plan significantly repositioned America West as a coast-to-coast carrier, dramatically reduced its direct competitive exposure to Southwest Airlines, and profitably increased their fleet and operations by 25%.

He is one of the world’s leading experts on the international airline alliances, having been responsible for the original development of the KLM-Northwest alliance network, another major driver of Northwest’s financial turnaround. Mr. Horan rapidly increased flying between Amsterdam and NWA’s hubs from 2 to 9 daily flights, which turned Northwest into the most profitable US airline on the North Atlantic. Each of the subsequent North Atlantic alliances directly copied the NW-KLM template.  He spent four years in Zurich grappling with Swissair-Sabena, Europe’s first cross-border merger, and managing North Atlantic alliances from the European perspective, including the transition of Swissair’s alliance from Delta to American.

All of his alliance innovations on the North Atlantic were both highly profitable for shareholders and hugely beneficial for consumers. Consistent with this dual focus he also moved aggressively to kill alliances that did not create any competitive or financial value, including the America West-Continental alliance, and the Qualiflyer alliance between Swissair, Sabena, Austrian, TAP, Turkish, and a number of other European carriers.

As Swissair/Sabena management knew that the SAir Group’s conglomerate strategy was doomed to fail, Mr. Horan led an internal effort to develop restructuring plans for both carriers. His plan to reorganize Swissair around its historical brand and longhaul product strengths was rejected in favor of shifting to a dramatically different strategy under the management of its regional subsidiary, a plan that cost Swiss taxpayers US$4 billion and nearly led to the total liquidation of the airline. The airline subsequently prospered under Lufthansa ownership, under a strategy that included all of the major components of Horan’s original approach.

He developed an entirely different approach for Sabena, restructuring it into a carrier strictly focused on local traffic. SN Brussels Airlines became profitable only three years after the demise of Sabena. Horan subsequently helped develop the plan for merging SN Brussels and Virgin Express.


He has been actively involved in the evolution of Chinese airline competition, developing a detailed financial restructuring plan for Air Macau, and designing network plans for three startup carriers, and network plans for Shanghai-Pudong operations under a proposed China Eastern-Shanghai Airlines merger. He has worked extensively on fleet planning projects, including a recent major fleet upgrade at Air Pacific.

Horan became an active opponent of the radical airline industry consolidation that began in 2004, and sought to undermine the benefits of liberal, market-based competition. While the original 1990s alliances were based on major efficiency improvements that increased service and reduced prices, the post 2004 changes reduced efficiency and created major new barriers to competition. He provided expert testimony in several antitrust immunity cases, testified before Congress on both the Delta-Northwest and United-Continental mergers, and published a detailed article on the competitive impacts of recent antitrust immunity cases in the Transportation Law Journal.

He was also heavily involved with airline bankruptcy reorganizations. In addition to internal work at Northwest, America West and Sabena, he developed the restructuring plan for Hawaiian Airlines’ bankruptcy emergence, which included the original plan for the development of Hawaiian's Asian operations. He also worked for creditor groups on the United and USAirways bankruptcies, and helped develop the Southwest-ATA codesharing and asset swaps as part of ATA’s restructuring. More recently he helped develop the plan to reject American management’s plan for a standalone reorganization in favor of a plan to merge American and USAirways within the bankruptcy reorganization process.

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