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Cleveland’s Hopkins airport to lose flights

United hub to slash 60% of departures, 470 jobs

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United Airlines’ hub at Cleveland’s Hopkins Airport has not been profitable for more than a decade, United’s chairman and chief executive officer, Jeff Smisek, said.

(CLEVELAND) PLAIN DEALER/LYNN ISCHAY Enlarge

CLEVELAND — United Airlines informed its employees at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Saturday that it will slash approximately 60 percent of its flights that depart from the city starting in April in a massive downsizing of what it called its unprofitable Cleveland operation.

Hundreds of jobs will be affected, according to a letter to workers from Jeff Smisek, the airline’s chairman of the board, president, and chief executive offer.

“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,” his letter said. “We simply cannot continue to bear these losses.”

Hopkins workers said the cuts mostly will be in flights that leave the D Concourse, ones that in the past were generally operated by Continental Airlines, before that airline merged with United.

These flights are described by United as regional departures, or smaller commuter jets. The cuts will be made incrementally into June.

By then, Mr. Smisek said, United plans to offer 72-peak-day flights from Cleveland, with 20 destinations served by nonstop flights.

Employees said the jobs of ticket agents and ground crews will be affected greatly. Mr. Smisek’s letter said 430 airport operations positions and 40 catering jobs will be lost.

The loss of Hopkins’ United hub has been a constant worry since the merger. United also has hubs in Chicago and Newark. The Cleveland hub was thought to be unnecessary.

In 2012, the Greater Cleveland Partnership pegged the hub’s economic impact at $4 billion.

Mr. Smisek’s letter said no city has been as supportive as Cleveland. “But the demand for hub-level connecting flying through Cleveland simply isn’t there. We must make the right business decisions, even when those decisions are painful,” he wrote.

Hopkins has about 245 average daily departures, with 165 of them on United planes.

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