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Improved Customs facility planned for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Airport director Robert Kennedy gives a tour of the airport in 2018. Kennedy announced his retirement Tuesday.Marvin Fong / The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Robert Kennedy, who navigated Cleveland Hopkins International Airport through the COVID-19 crisis and helped develop a $2 billion plan to rebuild the aging facility, announced his retirement Tuesday.

Airport director Kennedy, 69, said he will stay with the city through a transition process, which could last several months.

Kennedy arrived in Cleveland in early 2017, three years after United Airlines closed its hub at Hopkins. In the years since, the airport has steadily increased passenger traffic and improved its customer service scores with travelers – at least until the coronavirus pandemic brought air travel nationwide to a near stop in early 2020.

His departure comes at a delicate time for the airport, as the facility continues to recover from the pandemic and the airport prepares to begin talks with the airlines about financing a major rebuild of the terminal. “There’s never a good time,” said Kennedy, who came to Cleveland from Atlanta, where he worked as a consultant and an executive at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport. “There’s always something going on.”

Among his accomplishments, he cited the development of a 20-year master plan for the airport, finished last year, which calls for a $2 billion investment in the aging terminal at Cleveland Hopkins. Later this year, the city is scheduled to start negotiations with the airlines that operate at Hopkins about financing the plan.

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