“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,” Smisek said. “We simply cannot continue to bear these losses”
United said in November it aims to cut $2 billion in annual costs in the coming year by shifting flights, making workers more productive, and improving its maintenance procedures.
Similar cutbacks have affected many other small hubs in cities such as Memphis, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City amid a wave of airline mergers over the last five years.
Because it’s hard to fill a plane between, say, Indianapolis and Paris, airlines use hubs like Cleveland to gather passengers and connect them to the flights they want. People who live in a hub city get a wider selection of destinations because their airport has more flights than it would if it was limited to the flights supported by local traffic.
Cleveland was a hub for Continental when it merged with United in 2010 to form United Continental Holdings Inc. Ever since the merger, people in the industry have assumed it was in danger of losing its hub status, because the airline now has United’s Midwestern hub in Chicago.