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United departs from Hopkins, takes 470 jobs with them

James W. Wade III | 2/5/2014, 11:34 a.m.
Smith shared how the smaller airports are not really being used anymore as hubs, and named some of the larger ...
Port Control Director Ricky Smith talks about the effect of United Airlines leaving Cleveland Hopkins Airport and causing over 470 jobs to be lost while Mayor Frank Jackson looks on. Photo by James W. Wade III

United Airlines gave Cleveland’s economy a stiff uppercut when they announced they were pulling their hub out of Cleveland and cutting 470 jobs. The CEO Jeff Smisek stated in a letter to the 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. We simply cannot continue to bear these losses,” said Smisek.

Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Airport Director Ricky Smith held a press conference. They tried to soften the blow by sharing positive facts about the departure. The mayor talked preparing his people for something like this.

“Because of these efforts, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, even with the loss of United hub, is in a stronger position to grow today then it was eight years ago,” said Jackson.

Smith discussed how the flights would be reduced from 200 to 72 a day. “They will retain almost all of their mainline departures,” he said.

He also talked about how only 8.3 percent of the Cleveland traveling base will be affected because of the travelers who will no longer be passing through our fair airport, as well as the hundreds of employees who are out of a job.

At the press conference, both flight attendants and union officials indicated they were not happy about the news.

“These people have to understand we are losing quality union jobs. These are not just some typical jobs that are being loss here, these workers are providing for their families, and they will not be replaced,” said Harriet Applegate, executive secretary of the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has shared his feelings about United leaving, in a statement.

“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. 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. The challenge is to regional flights, as connecting fliers are seeking other, larger hubs en route to other destinations.

Hopefully this situation can be reversed over time and we’re going to continue to work with United to try to eventually do that. We’ve already set in motion outreach to the impacted employees and we’ll have a team on the ground on Monday to start connecting them with the right state support and benefits. The airport has made some major steps forward in recent years and the state, the city and the region will continue to work together to leverage that progress to attract other carriers so that Cleveland has access to even more air travel options.”