The writing has been on the wall for Cleveland as a major airline hub since well before the merger of United and Continental. The time has finally come for the draw-down in service there, with significant cuts coming starting later this spring. A formal press conference is scheduled for Monday but a reported internal letter from CEO Jeff Smisek is now circulating online outlining the cuts and reasoning.
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.
Most of the cuts are coming in the regional operations, not mainline service. Of course, there isn’t much mainline service at CLE, where a 737 is only slightly jokingly referred to as a wide-body. Cuts will come over three months (April-June) and will see the number of daily departures reduced by about 60%. Only one mainline frequency is being cut but nearly 70% of the regional flights are disappearing. Cleveland will now have 72 peak daily departures, 25 of which are mainline.
When the schedule reductions are fully implemented in June, we plan to offer 72 peak-day flights from Cleveland, and serve 20 destinations from Cleveland on a non-stop basis, including to all our hubs, and to key business markets likeLGA, DCA and BOS. We will also serve from Cleveland on a non-stop basis key leisure markets, like FLL, MCO, TPAand RSW. Importantly, our new schedule out of Cleveland will cover 58% of the current Cleveland-originating domestic passenger demand on a non-stop basis, and will permit Cleveland residents to fly to almost every one of the destinations they fly to today, by connecting over one or more of our other hubs.
As part of the route cuts more than 450 positions are expected to be cut in airport operations and catering. Some are expected to be offered the opportunity to transfer to other bases; others will be terminated outright.
Perhaps the only surprising bit is that CLE lasted as a hub this long. Then again, United has made a habit lately of trying to convince the public that they have operated in markets at a loss for extended periods while maintaining service. The IAH-CDG route was similarly described in the announcement of its demise. I like the idea of giving a market the chance to recover and survive or thrive but it seems that perhaps United (really the sCO side, I suppose) has done that too often and for too long.
UPDATE (7:45pm EDT 1 Feb 2014): Some more details are now emerging in terms of which routes will be cut/kept. Here’s one view:
Destinations being cut include: ATL, AUS, BUF, BTV, CLT, CMH, DAY, ERI, FNT, GRR, AVP, BDL, IND, MCI, SDF, MHT, MIA, MSP, YUL, BNA, MSY, OKC, PHL, PHC, PIT, PWM, PVD, RDU, RIC, ROC, SYR, YYZ and a couple others I don’t know the code for off-hand.
That leaves the following: ALB, BWI, BOS, ORD, DFW, DEN, FLL, RSW, IAH, LAS, LAX, MKE, LGA, EWR, MCO, SFO, STL, TPA, IAD, DCA and seasonal to CUN, NAS, SJU, and CHS.
The in-flight crew bases will remain as the mainline operations will be relatively unaffected. The job cuts are coming in airport operations (above and below the wing) and catering.
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