CLEVELAND -- WKYC has confirmed that United Airlines will be making severe cutbacks at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and will not continue its hub status. The Investigator Tom Meyer was the first to break the story.
The cuts mean a majority of the United flights coming through Hopkins will be eliminated, as well as many local layoffs.
WKYC obtained a copy of a letter sent to employees from United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek. (See it here: http://on.wkyc.com/1fxq51m)
Smisek says, "Our hub in Cleveland hsan'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.
The letter also says United will reduce the number of average daily departures by about 60%. The scheduled reductions will be fully implemented in June.
In regards to staffing, Smisek says, " I regret that we will be forced to reduce staffing in Cleveland, but we have no choice, given the level of continued losses we have suffered."
For the last two years, Greater Cleveland's business community has been waging a campaign known as Save the Hub, by encouraging businesses to fly United Airlines. The Greater Cleveland Partnership's Joe Roman has been the campaign's point person.
In a press release, the City of Cleveland announced that Mayor Frank G. Jackson will hold a press conference on Monday at 11 a.m. to discuss Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and air service by United Airlines.
Roman said he spoke with the mayor confirming Monday's press conference . He said he could not discuss specifics but would be at the event and would speak about the issues afterward.
Ohio Governor John Kasich issued the following statement Saturday evening:
"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."
On Sunday afternoon, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald issued the following statement:
"United's decision will affect many hard-working families in Cuyahoga County. We are very concerned for these impacted employees and committed to assisting them in any way we are able. We have already been in contact with our workforce development team, who will be available to counsel impacted employees on next steps. While this is disappointing news, our region is resilient and confident. We will continue to focus on the future and work with the private sector and other government entities to increase air service to our area."
Ironically, United's in-flight magazine for February features a 56-page insert promoting Cleveland.
United's annual shareholders' meeting is scheduled to be held in Cleveland this summer.
Representatives from the airport said they knew nothing about the cutbacks.
Hopkins reported an slight increase in passengers using airport in 2013.