by Dan Rafter
No one can argue that United Airlines’ decision to eliminate Cleveland’s Hopkins International Airport as one of its hubs is good for the city. The move will dramatically reduce the number of flights at Hopkins and eliminate about 470 jobs.
But there is some hope at the airport. United’s decision has provided opportunities for other airlines.
Delta has already announced that it will add two routes at the airport, while Frontier will add one.
Still, the airport has a lot of work to do to make up for United’s pullback. United chief executive officer Jeff Smisek made the airline’s announcement in early February. All the cuts will be in place by June. When that happens, United’s schedule in Cleveland will fall from nearly 200 daily departures to just 72.
The first flight cuts at the airport will begin in April.
In his letter announcing the cuts, Smisek says that the decision to eliminate Cleveland’s hub status was a financial one.
“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 wrote. “We simply cannot continue to bear these losses.”
Researchers at Jones Lang LaSalle recently reported that Hopkins has attracted more interest from rivals interested in adding departures at the airport.
“Cleveland is now a much more inviting market than it was when United had a hub,” said Ricky Smith, Cleveland’s airport system director. “Because the hub is no longer here, we have a group of airlines that are more open and willing to have discussions with us around starting service.”
According to Jones Lang LaSalle, in 2012, the total number of passengers flying out of Hopkins stood at just more than 8.4 million. Of that number, 64 percent, or more than 5.4 million passengers, flew United.