United Leaves CLE and takes some of it's reputation with it - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

United's departure leaves the city with a stigma

Economists say the city and the airport better act quickly so CLE doesn't become a "B" City Economists say the city and the airport better act quickly so CLE doesn't become a "B" City

United Airlines remains Hopkins Airport's largest carrier, but by June the number of United flights will drop from 199 to 72.

This is a runway reduction of more than 60 percent.

United's decision is a blow to the airport and to Cleveland, but Mayor Frank Jackson said the city was prepared for this possibility.

"Our goal is to whatever the negative side is to make it last a very short period of time and recover and make a positive out of it," Jackson said.

Economist John Burke, an adjunct professor at John Carroll University, said United's downsizing is bad news for Cleveland.

"It's just another sign that Cleveland is slipping behind the times," Burke said. "Maybe becoming a second-ranked city. Maybe becoming a second-ranked business area." 

He said local leaders must act.

"We've gotta get another airline there. We've gotta get another hub. We've gotta get a smaller airline. We've gotta get somebody to service this area or we will slip further behind," Burke said.

Price increases are a possibility with less competition, but Cleveland appears to be in a good position to attract another airline or get a current carrier to expand service.

Over the past 15 years one billion dollars has been spent to improve Hopkins.

United insists it has been losing money at Hopkins for a decade, but a spokeswoman says people still want to fly out of Hopkins.

"The demand out of Cleveland is still quite strong," said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy. "What this is about is connecting traffic. Customers flying through the hub."  

It's not clear yet which airline might step in to fill the void at Hopkins. 

A spokesman for Jet Blue said it's too early to say whether it would move; and adds, the airline is always looking at its options.

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