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United Airlines drops Cleveland as flight hub

Feb. 5, 2014, Washington, D.C. - United Airlines will drop its money-losing hub in Cleveland, slashing its daily flights and eliminating 470 jobs.


February 5, 2014
By The Associated Press

The company's CEO Jeff Smisek announced in a letter to employees that
the airline will no longer use Cleveland to connect fliers coming from
other airports around the country. As a result, United's daily
departures from the city will fall from 199 currently to 72 by June.

 

"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 states. "We simply cannot continue to bear these losses."

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United said in November that it aims to cut $2 billion in annual
costs in the coming year by shifting flights, making workers more
productive, and improving its maintenance procedures.

 

Similar cutbacks have affected many other small hubs in cities such
as Memphis, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City amid a wave of airline mergers
over the last five years.

 

Because it's hard to fill a plane between, say, Indianapolis and
Paris, airlines use hubs like Cleveland to gather passengers and connect
them to the flights they want. People who live in a hub city get a
wider selection of destinations because their airport has more flights
than it would if it was limited to the flights supported by local
traffic.

 

Cleveland was a hub for Continental when it merged with United in
2010 to form United Continental Holdings Inc. Ever since the merger,
people in the industry have assumed it was in danger of losing its hub
status, because the airline now has United's Midwestern hub in Chicago.

 

"Ever since the merger everyone knew this was a risk, which is why
economic development officials for the city, the region and the state
have discussed options with United for keeping its presence in
Cleveland," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said. "This is a disappointing
decision and one we disagree with, but a point that United stressed is
that demand for air travel from Cleveland remains strong and that
they're maintaining virtually all of their flights to and from major
markets."

 

In June, Delta Air Lines Inc. announced it would be closing its
Memphis hub, which it had inherited in its 2008 acquisition of Northwest
Airlines. Delta already has a huge hub operation in Atlanta.