Cleveland's Hard Landing

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When airlines merge, hubs get purged. Cleveland just paid the price for the 2010 United-Continental merger, with United announcing Feb. 1 that it will reduce daily departures at Hopkins International to 72 from 200; direct service to 39 markets, including Austin, Atlanta and Buffalo, N.Y., will end by June. Cleveland was too close to Chicago to keep its hub. Losing that status will cost the city about 500 jobs. You could feel the chill all the way from Philadelphia to Phoenix, the two dangling participles in the U.S. Airways--American merger, whose future, like those of any number of other hubs, is, well, up in the air.


Sky Harbor was the HQ airport for America West and later U.S. Airways after the latter combined with the former. That deal left Pittsburgh, U.S. Air's home port, out of luck. Pittsburgh's is a lovely if lonelier airport these days. American has hubs at Dallas for domestic traffic and Los Angeles for Asia--which means Phoenix could be stuck in the middle and left high and dry.


It's the proximity, not the facility. Philly's closeness to JFK, New York City's transatlantic gateway, could hurt it if American consolidates there and in Charlotte, N.C. If Philly can't grow, it would go the way of Cincinnati, where Delta's Comair regional-carrier hub lost out to Detroit, and Memphis, which got snuffed by Atlanta when Delta and Northwest merged.


After Cleveland, United will have seven domestic hubs remaining, and it's been suggested it could get by with as few as three. Does United need Denver if it has Chicago and Houston? Or LAX if it has San Francisco?