In perhaps the worst CLE news since LeBron’s decision, United will officially announce tomorrow that it is de-hubbing Cleveland.
It’s no surprise. I said 4 years ago,
Finally, I see little hope for Cleveland to remain a hub. Continental and United currently have hubs in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, S. Francisco, and Washington DC.
There is a compelling argument to keep pretty much all of those hubs in place except Cleveland. United already abandoned their hub in Cleveland hub back in 80′s. I’ll bet that United ditches Cleveland once again if this merger is completed.
And now United will ditch Cleveland for a 2nd time. United had agreed not to cut the hub for a few years in exchange for Ohio’s attorney general not opposing the merger but that agreement is mostly expired. Nonstop destinations served from Cleveland will be cut from 58 to 20. The number of daily flights will be cut from 199 to 72. Full details can be found here.
But this is hardly the first negative outcome of the Continental-United merger.
Passengers from both the pre-merger Continental and United side hate what has become of both airlines. It’s pretty much a mix of the worst policies from both.
Just a small taste of the merger pain and why mergers are never good for consumers:
-Points can no longer be transferred from AMEX to Continental like they used to before the merger.
-The AMEX Platinum card stopped allowing access to clubs like they to for Continental before the merger.
-United didn’t use to charge an award expedite fee but that came back with the merger.
-While Starnet blocking may be gone, United.com is progressively getting worse, no longer displaying award space for Brussels, LOT Polish, or Singapore. People don’t even realize that award tickets to places like Israel are easily bookable, but that it requires doing their own research on other websites. In fact Singapore awards to the US aren’t even bookable over the phone for now. They even lied and said that it was a mutual decision with Singapore when Singapore said it was solely United’s decision.
-Clubs have lost most of the free alcohol that Continental used to offer before the merger.
-Free date changes on awards that Continental used to offer are gone.
-Continental’s backend system was kept (as it was already paid for) which have wreaked havoc on operations and has frustrated elite customers who have to split off travel companions from their itinerary in order to be upgraded. However that process causes the travel companions to lose out on the benefits of being linked to an elite member.
-United recently won a lawsuit so that they don’t have to give expressly promised benefits to million milers like a couple of annual confirmed domestic upgrades that cost United next to nothing. Talk about winning the battle but losing the war against your best customers.
-Award charts, especially around-the-world and first class awards have been devalued on a scale never seen before. And they are now more confusing than ever before with split charts for partner airlines.
-United has been unprofitable since the merger even while other airlines turn huge profits.
-Corporate clients have been fleeing to other airlines as merger related operational issues plagued United. And speaking of being penny-wise and pound foolish United has been alienating some corporate clients by not awarding them PQDs on tickets booked through corporate travel agencies even though the tickets can still cost thousands of dollars. PQDs were added by Delta and copied by United in 2014 as a way to make sure that customers spent thousands of dollars on ticket in addition to flying tens of thousands of miles in order to earn elite status.
CEO Jeff Smisek has run two proud airlines into the ground. He’s now infamous for promising passengers changes that they’re going to like while continuing to erode passenger loyalty and operate at net losses. Can anyone explain how he is still at the helm?