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Cranky on the Web: 10 Years Since United Left Cleveland

Cranky on the Web

Lower fares, fewer flights: How the closure of United’s hub in Cleveland has altered air travel over 10 yearsCleveland.com
It’s been 10 years since United shuttered its Cleveland hub, and the local paper put together a story about what has changed in that time. As you might expect, flights are down, small destinations have disappeared, but there is plenty of capacity to the places where a lot of people want to go.

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15 comments on “Cranky on the Web: 10 Years Since United Left Cleveland

    1. Not true. Southwest only served 4 cities during the United hub days, BWI, MDW, STL and BNA. They currently serve 12 cities (3 of which are seasonal).

  1. I always preferred the Cleveland hub to Newark back in the Continental days – much easier to navigate, lots of connection options, and none of the rude jerks that Newark is famous for.

    1. Plus EWR took years to modernize the terminals. I remember when People Express put buckets in the concourse to catch leaks when it rained. Still avoid today!

  2. Jet Blue may do well if they were to establish a hub at CLE rather than relying on two illogical hubs in a far corner of the country. And according to this article CLE has a decent amount of origin traffic also.

    1. In theory, yes. But Frontier is opening a base at CLE, and UA (surprisingly) has still has enough brand loyalty to support non-hub service to a number of locations. They seem to get a premium for the flights. Might’ve been possible right after UA closed the hub, but today I think it would be a bloodbath for them.

      1. United never fully retreated to just serving hubs after closing the CLE hub. They kept most of the significant business routes at the outset which was smart as it kept a great deal of the O&D traffic at least semi loyal. Enough so that United expanded back into many of the significant leisure routes as well. It’s definitely a large “focus city” if United uses that nomenclature.

      2. I wonder if any of that UA traffic is because fares from CLE are usually WAY cheaper than from DTW? If it were easy for me to get to from mid-Michigan, I’d save $$$$ each year for international (connecting) flights departing from CLE rather than DTW.

    2. JetBlue doesn’t really care about connections. Their hubs are simply cities where they want to serve a lot of O&D traffic.

    3. CLE has too much competition.

      Even with all the leakage, CVG would be a far better pick for various reasons (growing metro, various HQs set up there, ability to capture a more captive market).

      1. CLE and CVG may both serve large markets in Ohio, but I don’t know that they compete in any way. For one thing, they’re at least 4 hours’
        drive apart. Not to mention that CVG is actually southwest of downtown Cincy – in Kentucky. They really have nothing to do with CLE.

        DTW, COL and PIT are more competitive for CLE which is to say: “not really, unless your ultimate destination is located between CLE and the other city.”

  3. CLE is a true dehubbing success story!

    – only took 4 years to get passenger numbers back to the last year of the hub (wonder how that compares to CVG, PIT, MEM and others?)

    – two airlines with local crew bases is a huge benefit

    – eviscerated the low fare alternative at CAK thanks to (1) WN killing off FL airports like CAK and instead expanding at CLE plus (2) huge expansion from F9 and some growth from NK, helped in large part by…

    – making CPE stupid low so the low fare carriers consolidated at CLE instead of CAK and helped gain new carriers such as…

    – Alaska, JetBlue and Aer Lingus

    – making sure United was on the hook for all of Concourse D so the city didn’t lose a penny was a stroke of genius. I bet PIT wish it thought of that (although US/AA would have stiffed them in bankruptcy anyway).

    – stupid low CPE also gives them a lot of wiggle room to fund the new facility without sending it into the stratosphere.

    TL;DR – CLE rocks!!!

    Now United, for God’s sake restore the DCA-CLE service, AA is just brutal. Last minute trip booked on Friday for Monday, 3 of the 4 flights were $1,980 round trip. GMAFB.

    1. I always wonder about flights connecting two large cities that are < 400 driving miles (< ~6 hours' drive) apart, especially when neither of the cities are hubs. Yes, there's traffic and road conditions (i.e., snow in the winter) to consider for drives, but still.

      In my mind, routes like that are squarely in the "mostly business travel" category, given that door-to-door time isn't much less than driving (especially for leisure travelers who may not have PreCheck or who may be parking off-airport). I would expect most leisure travelers to drive those routes unless they find cheap fares or have to do a quick trip, while I don't know many corporate travelers who would drive routes like that unless they had other stops along the way or the airports weren't very convenient to their final destination.

      1. A related interesting nugget I stumbled onto recently… I fly RDU-CLT-CHS frequently for work now. Its 5 hours door-to-door by car and about 30-60 minutes faster to fly (the real value is being able to work during the flight/connections instead of spending 10 hours behind the wheel of a car for a <24 hour trip). AA is really the only option that makes any routing sense because of the CLT hub.

        I've noticed the main cabin fares are often priced – to the dollar – the same as the IRS rate mileage reimbursement would be. Don't know if that's a random coincidence, but it struck me as pretty crafty if they know their primary competition for business travel on that route is a reimbursable drive and are pricing accordingly.

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