With a mega-hub in nearby Chicago, word on the street is that Continental’s Cleveland hub will be a casualty of the merger with United. CLE is only 314 miles from ORD. While San Francisco and Los Angeles (UA’s West Coast hubs) are only 338 miles apart and Washington and Newark (UA’s East Coast hubs) are only 212 miles apart, two Midwest hubs do not serve the same utility as the aforementioned coastal hubs that are currently at or near capacity.
But don’t underestimate the resolve of local politicians. Already, UA/CO have signed a binding contract promising to maintain a hub in Cleveland for the next five years. At a speech in Cleveland yesterday, United CEO Jeff Smisek expressed "warmth and affection for the city," but also made clear that unless CLE is profitable, it will cease to be a hub.
This is not breaking news, though it is refreshing for a leader to be forthright. And forthright Smisek was in stating, "Cleveland needs to earn its hub status every day."
Let’s see if CLE is up to the challenge. I’ll be flying through Hopkins International for the first time on a MR this weekend and look forward to querying the President’s Club staff about their thoughts on the future of United’s smallest hub.
As with everything at Continental, the almighty bottom line is key.