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Northeast Ohio Leaders Plan Next Steps After United Airlines Cuts Cleveland Hub

Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 4:40 PM

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News that United Airlines is eliminating its Cleveland hub has city leaders plotting next steps in landing alternative air service. ideastream’s Nick Castele has the story.

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Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport in December 2012 (Brian Bull / ideastream) First page of letter from United CEO Jeff Smisek to employees. Obtained by ideastream on Sunday. Second page of letter from United CEO Jeff Smisek to employees. Obtained by ideastream on Sunday.

United CEO Jeff Smisek notified employees over the weekend that the company will cut 60 percent of departures from Cleveland-Hopkins airport – most of them regional flights – and eliminate 470 jobs there.  He said the hub has been unprofitable for years, and closing it is the right business decision. 

Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley said he got a call this weekend from United saying as much. He said city leaders will try to fill the void left in service.

“You never want to lose any jobs, and certainly losing over 400 is significant,” Kelley said in a phone interview Sunday. “Our job now is to work with the mayor, with the airport director, with council and do what we can to restore service as quickly as possible. And with that, hopefully the jobs will come back.”

Joe Roman of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the city’s chamber of commerce, told ideastream it could take a year or two to get other airline carriers to step in and serve routes most important to businesses.

“It would be a mistake to say that there would be no interruption or no impact,” Roman said. “But I think we’re ready to address that impact. And we’re certainly not going to sit back and let these changes affect us. We’re going to go out there and aggressively make sure we can address the market needs.”

Roman said the Cleveland hub was United’s smallest after the company’s 2010 merger with Continental, putting it at a disadvantage compared with other regional hubs.

“If people from around the country see a destination route flying through Chicago or flying through Denver or flying through another hub as a more convenient way to go, then they’re doing that,” he said. “And obviously that has an impact on the Cleveland airport.”

In a written statement emailed to media on Sunday, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said the county workforce program is ready to help airline workers who will be laid off. A city press release says Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson will address the cuts in a news conference Monday morning..

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Economy, Transportation

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