United to Drop Cleveland Hub, Eliminating Flights And Hundreds Of Jobs

In a letter delivered to employees Saturday, United CEO Jeff Smisek says the Cleveland hub hasn't been profitable for more than a decade, and in recent years has lost tens of millions of dollars - losses the company cannot continue to bear.

The hub was operated by Continental Airlines until it merged with United in 2010. United maintained Cleveland's hub status, but officials here have long worried the airline's hubs in nearby Chicago and Newark would result in hub connections in Cleveland being discontinued.

United says it will cut its regional departures from Cleveland by more than 70 percent by June, and eliminate 470 jobs at the airport.

Joe Roman, President of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, called the business decision by United "unfortunate" in a statement posted on GCP's website. But, Roman said, "we have long recognized that this was one possible consequence of the United-Continental merger after witnessing similar outcomes in other markets through consolidation within the industry."

"Fortunately, our airport and city are better positioned to attract additional service than they were at the time of the merger. The airport is improved, costs are down, we have more traffic-generating assets and the business community is mobilized and committed," he said.

Roman pledged the GCP "will now mount an aggressive effort to replace as many lost routes as possible.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Cleveland's Director of Port Control Ricky Smith and others will talk about about the loss of United's hub service and options to replace it at a news conference Monday.

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