Cleveland is likely reeling today with the news that United Airlines is ditching the city as a hub, cutting about 60% its departing flights from the city starting in April. The downsizing is a result of United losing tens of millions of dollars in the city in recent years, executives said in a letter to employees today.
According to the letter from United’s board chairman/chief executive officer/president Jeff Smisek, the company couldn’t keep pouring money into Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, reports the Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer.
“Our hub in Cleveland hasn’t been profitable for over a decade, and has generated tens of millions of dollars of annual losses in recent years,” Smisek’s letter said. “We simply cannot continue to bear these losses.”
Many of the cuts will be on flights that used to be operated by Continental Airlines before it merged with United — generally regional departures. Cuts will be ongoing into June, until finally there will be about 72-peak-day flights from Cleveland, serving 20 destinations with non-stop flights.
And of course one big concern whenever there’s a massive cutback like this? Job losses. Employees are saying that ticket agents and ground crews will be hit hardest by the cuts, while Smisek’s letter notes that 430 airport operations positions and 40 catering jobs will be no more.
While Cleveland has been supportive thus far, Smisek says “the demand for hub-level connecting flying through Cleveland simply isn’t there. We must make the right business decisions, even when those decisions are painful.”
“I know that these changes will be difficult for many of you, and this outcome is not what any of us wanted,” he wrote.
This fear has been looming on the horizon for many in the city since United merged with Continental — which had a base in Cleveland — in 2010. United already has hubs in nearby-ish cities Chicago and Newark, N.J., rendering Cleveland somewhat unnecessary as a hub.