United to cut Cleveland hub by June

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United Airlines will cut its hub at Cleveland Hopkins International airport from April, ending nonstop service to 39 cities by the end of June.

“The demand for hub-level connecting flying through Cleveland simply isn't there," says Jeff Smisek, chairman, president and chief executive of the Chicago-based Star Alliance carrier, in a letter to employees on 1 February. "Ultimately, we can't create demand, but we do have a responsibility to react to it. We must make the right business decisions, even when those decisions are painful, so we can continue to compete effectively and invest appropriately in our business."

United has lost money in Cleveland during the past decade and new US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot rest and training regulations have accelerated the need to make the cuts, he adds.

The airline will decrease service to 72 peak day departures from Cleveland in three waves during April, May and June, according to the letter. It operates 199 peak day departures currently.

The move represents a 64% reduction in departures and a 36% reduction in available seat miles (ASMs).

United Express operations will bear the brunt of the cuts. Regional departures will decrease by about 70%, according to the airline.

United will continue to fly from Cleveland to its hubs at Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco and Washington Dulles. It will also maintain service to Albany, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, New York LaGuardia, Orlando, St. Louis, Tampa and Washington National.

“Even with the reductions, we will offer more than 20% more departures from Cleveland than we do from our next-largest city that isn't designated a hub, and we will maintain the majority of our mainline service,” says Smisek.

United will likely have to boost capacity at its other hubs in order to maintain its guidance of a 1% to 2% increase in ASMs in 2014. Nearby hubs that could serve similar connecting flows include Chicago O’Hare, Newark Liberty and Washington Dulles.

The carrier plans to keep its pilot and flight attendant bases at Cleveland but anticipates cutting about 430 operations jobs at the airport.

United inherited the Cleveland hub from Continental Airlines when the two carriers merged in 2010.