I'm sure the powers at be in Nashville would love a UA hub, even a small one. The airport is already undergoing a major expansion, BA is coming to make a connection to Heathrow and the city has undergone it's biggest transformation in the city's history in the last 10 years. Southwest has largely been the beneficiary of it, having made Nashville work when AA couldn't do it back in the early 90s. Since then, JetBlue has returned and all the other players are doing more business...even AA.
I would not be so sure. BNA has a very good mix of carriers and fares that keep the competition honest. You cannot compare the AA hub to what WN has become in Nashville. Besides, there way be two or three empty gates max right now.. I suspect once the expansion is complete, the new gates are already spoken for, or at least carriers are looking at them.
I think the real answer is no US carriers if going to "create" a 200+ flight a day hub. Some growth where available, sure. But adding totally new hubs, it ain't gonna happen.
I disagree, BNA would love a UA hub. Anything that would grow the airport and increase the number of passengers they are for. I don't think it would be a large hub on the scale of ATL and CLT, but a smaller niche hub (like DL at CVG) that could capture some of the southeast traffic that they are missing out on. Plus a UA hub would drastically help with landing a flight to Tokyo (NRT), which BNA wants badly due to the increasing Asian ties to Middle Tennessee (partly via Bridgestone and Nissan). Having a BNA UA hub with a flight to NRT could help route some connecting traffic to Asia from the southeast that do not want to connect in ATL or ORD, thus increasing the loads and making it profitable. UA has a hub at NRT, so they could launch the flight themselves (with a 788 or 789) or have Star Alliance partner All Nippon do it.
Where could UA find the space for a hub at BNA? UA and Air Canada have Concourse A all to themselves, and once the existing IAB building is demolished as part of BNA Vision, Concourse A could be completely rebuilt and expanded with at least 10-20 new gates and new United Club. And I think people are overestimating WN's impact on BNA, WN has larger operations in ATL and they and DL seem to coexist just fine there. UA opening a hub would lead to more competition and better fares, which I am all for.
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I doubt it will happen, but you never know.
WN is now the dominant airline at BNA. It would take a determined, long-term effort by UA, or, similarly, DL or AA, to establish a sizeable hub in Nashville. Gaining market share may be very challenging, as WN would fight tooth and nail on virtually every route. That, and the many years of operating a potentially marginal operation, would give any airline exec serious reservations.
As it now stands at BNA, the US Big3 fly mainly to their respective hubs. WN has settled in with most of the other routes it deems worthwhile, such as SAN, MCI, BWI, OAK, PIT, and so forth. After that the pickings thin out quickly.
The hubs of Big3 are now centered around international flying. In recent years, the only new creation of a hub has been at SEA with DL, which has focused on international flying to Asia. Could the same be put in place at BNA, but focused on Europe and South America? Sure, it's possible, but very unlikely. The risk would be overwhelming. Imagine the fallout if UA shrunk its operations at IAD to create a hub at BNA, or somewhere else in the south. And then that new hub failed to live up to its expectations, for one reason or another. That would be an egregious miscalculation so severe it would become infamous.
UA can cover most of the southern US adequately with its hubs at IAH and IAD. There's little need for a true southern hub. Comparatively, when one looks at the DL hub map, there's a huge gap between ATL and SLC. Does DL need a southwest hub, like UA needs a southeast hub? No, not at all. DL is fine as it is, and so is UA.