Upon reading Sunday's Plain Dealer, I was incredibly disappointed in the Forum editorial titled "Our agenda for Northeast Ohio." The editorial completely omitted the importance of retaining an airport hub. Maybe it's just so obvious it was not included. I was equally disappointed to see that no mention of this needed effort was made in Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's Western Reserve Plan or Gov. John Kasich's second State of the State speech. Almost every major city has hub airlines, and Cleveland cannot afford to lose its United hub.
The entire state of Ohio will be hurt if we lose Cleveland as a hub. From numerous reliable sources, I have learned that United regards Cleveland Hopkins International Airport as redundant, and as such, it already is no longer needed as a hub. This begs the question as to why wasn't more political pressure exerted when the merger was announced and an antitrust argument could have been made to leverage the hub's remaining at Hopkins?
As the current city administration takes baby steps to try to raise other revenues to help offset the landing fees United is charged, we are moving daily toward the unthinkable loss of the hub. Dramatic action is needed before it is too late, and Cleveland becomes an airport with limited flight options or one served by a discount carrier. It is simple economics: Lower United's costs of using Cleveland as a hub to the level where United cannot say no. If this means cutting landing fees in half, then find a way for the region to help the city cover these costs -- perhaps with a sin tax or a special airport tax. In other words, if the current annual operating budget is approximately $100 million, make it so attractive financially that it does not make economic sense for United to close the hub.
No matter how enticing the attractions we have here, who will want to come to see them if they have to transfer two times on Southwest to get here? The medical mart. The casino. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The aquarium. The Flats. The Browns. The Cleveland Clinic. It has to be easy to get here as we compete both nationally and globally for the finite number of visitors.
Further, without a viable airport, it will become more difficult to attract and retain businesses and the best and brightest talents that come with them. We will drive talent and tourism away, not attract it.
If we lose our airport hub, then all other efforts in furthering this city's national standing will be futile. This initiative needs the combined efforts of all of our community leaders, including our state and national elected representatives. There must be an immediate proactive effort made to retain Cleveland's airport hub. How are we to "revitalize and rebrand" Cleveland if our airport -- the gateway into our city -- is third-rate?
Andrew Brickman, Cleveland