Budget airlines fill void United left behind at Hopkins

Posted at 6:45 AM, Aug 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-24 09:59:14-04

2016 was the highest traffic year at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport since United pulled its hub from the airport in 2013. 2017 is on pace to beat even that.

“Yea I think it’s exciting. Any time we can get more travel out of northeast Ohio, whether it’s to Europe or whether it’s to California or wherever, I think it’s exciting,” said Steve Bozeka.

Passengers like Bozeka that fly in and out of Cleveland-Hopkins Airport were excited to hear the former United Airlines hub will be welcoming two new European carriers.

It was announced this week, IcelandAir would start nonstop service and WOW airlines, a budget international carrier announced with Cleveland’s mayor and airport officials they would offer nonstop service four times a week to Iceland in 2018.

“I wasn’t surprised! This is why we did the RNC in the first place,” said Joe Roman, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

WOW is just the latest in what has been an important push by the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the city to re-invent the airport after United pulled its hub.

How’s it happening? In part, through the surge in budget airlines.

“We had a stronger market that we knew other airlines would want to grab once United gave up some of that territory,” said Roman.

United is still the biggest carrier in Cleveland, but since it pulled its hub, Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit and now, WOW, have all filled the holes it left behind.

“Cleveland Hopkins is uniquely situated and there’s a lot of opportunity for airlines to fill in, to take over some of those routes, because I believe the demand is there,” said Kevin Kelley, Cleveland City Council President.

2016 had the most passengers come through the airport since before United pulled out three years earlier. 2017 is already on pace to destroy that record with upwards of nine million passengers expected to pass through.

“It really created a nice window, a nice opportunity, for a lot of the lower cost airlines especially, the Allegiants, Sprit, Frontier, it was almost perfect for them to come in and backfill what United left, some of the routes they left open,” said Kelley.

As for the D-Terminal at Hopkins, the big, empty terminal that United abandoned, the airline is still under contract and paying rent there at a price tag of $1 million a month until 2027.