CLEVELAND -- About a year ago, United Airlines pulled its hub out of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Many people worried if the airport could bounce back. Word is spreading that the airport is turning things around better than other airports in similar situations.
Approximately 147 planes sail into the sky each day at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and Rahman Al-Hazami's mother-in-law leaves on one of them.
"She is going back home to Baghdad," said Al-Hazami.
That makes the departures hard, but the arrivals much more special.
"Northeast Ohio it's home," said Al-Hazami.
And returning home starts here at CLE Hopkins.
"We support our community that's why we don't go to Detroit," said Al-Hazami. "We come to Cleveland."
CLE Hopkins Spokesperson Michele Dynia says they want that mentality to continue.
"To have the City of Cleveland support the airport and come out here and support these new airlines coming in is huge for the City," said Dynia.
Dynia says when United left a lot of flights were eliminated, but Frontier, Spirit and Jet Blue filled the gap with bigger planes.
"Even though we are down in flights, we still have a large number of passengers," said Dynia.
And cheaper flights.
"They are seeing the value in booking a flight in these ultra low carriers and saving a ton of money and flying their families to their destinations," said Dynia.
We compared rates between United and competing airlines for a week in August. A flight from here to Las Vegas on United costs $450. On Spirit, it was $191. A flight to Orlando on United costs $371, but on Spirit, it will cost you $171. And flying to Chicago will cost you $223 on United and $208 on Southwest.
"We are seeing a lot more originating passengers from here in Cleveland going to their destinations whereas before it was more connecting traffic," said Dynia
The next time you go to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport give yourself more time.
The airport is also going through a $20 million upgrade and you can tell. It started on Sunday May 17 and is expected to be complete by next May, about two months before the Republican National Convention.
This year the airport is celebrating its 90th anniversary, and they are literally raising the roof.
"It is going to add more natural lighting," said Dynia.
They are constructing higher ceilings.
"The glass going up to the ceiling will be higher," said Dynia.
And they will add a fresh coat of paint.
"New colors," said Dynia. "Much more open and inviting."
Cleveland Hopkins Spokesperson Michele Dynia calls it a pretty large project. They are redoing the ticketing area and the baggage claim.
"People are going to be very surprised when they come in here when this project is over," said Dynia. "We are redoing the skin."
They are adding canopies and columns to modernize the entire façade.
"We understand that it is going to be an inconvenience during this process, and we are doing what we can to minimize that inconvenience."
Dynia says they have signs posted to help with confusion, but she does suggest to plan to arrive an hour and a half to two hours early. And to occupy your time, you can check out new shops and restaurants.
"With the addition of Spirit and Frontier flights, Concourse A is like a bustling concourse for us, and we did not have a lot of restaurants over there so now we have a second Winner's location open on Concourse A," said Dynia.
A local man recently opened Inca Tea. There is a new Subway location, and a Chick-fil-A opened in the food court. And others could be coming soon.
"We are always looking to open up and create better places for people to stop and visit while they're here at the airport, said Dynia.
Airlines are expecting the busiest summer in the history of U.S. air travel. An estimated 222 million travelers are expected to fly from June 1 through August 31, according to the industry group Airlines for America, which represents the largest U.S. carriers. The top summer destinations leaving from CLE Hopkins are Chicago, New York and Orlando. And a new daily nonstop flight on Spirit to Myrtle Beach will be a top Summer destination spot in 2015.