I'm glad to see United finally turning the corner after years of a downward trend, but they still have a long way to go and a lot left to do to improve their brand. As I was reading about some of the changes, I had a couple of observations.
1. Growing the mid-continent hubs (ORD, IAH and DEN) is the right move in the short term, but IMO, they aren't going far enough. As UA lacks a ATL/DFW megahub, getting these up to as many departures as possible should be the first goal. ORD should grow to 800+ flights, IAH 600+ and DEN around 500.
2. On that note, UA needs to do a ton of upgauging in ORD and IAH. Their two largest hubs (which are significant business centers and have a ton of O&D, particularly ORD) have roughly 42% and 50% mainline flying respectively, which is pretty sad for the airline's flagship hubs. Both should be closer to 60-65%. This is why UA needs a 100 seat aircraft such as the A220/E195-E2, they could base it out of those two hubs and upgauge a lot of routes.
3. I also like how IAD is being built up again and becoming more of a connecting option as opposed to EWR. This being said, once UA gets a better financial position and strengthens their existing hubs, they need to consider a SE hub in a place such as BNA. I know this has been talked about previously on this forum and Oscar said previously they weren't interested at this time in a SE hub, but if UA really wants to rebound and challenge DL on becoming the premier US airline, they need to expand their footprint beyond their existing hubs. Not saying start focus cities or p2p flying, but every geographical area needs to be covered adequately (and no, IAD isn't going to cut it entirely for the SE, while it will certainly play a role, they still need a true, bona-fide SE hub).
Agree with everything except BNA, it's a terrible hub for connecting the Northeast to the Southeast, which is the bread and butter of CLT and ATL. What city pairs make sense through BNA, NYC-Alabama?, PHL-Arkansas? DCA-Mississippi? That part of the South has little connectIon culturally or business wise to the Northeast. For the Northeast it's Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina with the cultural / family ties and the business connections. When AA had a hub at BNA it was in tandem with RDU. If UA wants a Southeast hub they need to fight DL and WN for RDU, more so DL because UA has shown they can live with WN in DEN, Houston and Chicago. UA would need to go into RDU and win the business traffic, kind of like DL did against AS in SEA to some degree of success and now BOS against B6. The Raleigh/ Durham research triangle part of North Carolina has very strong business, cultural and family ties to the Northeast.
BNA actually isn't too far out of the way. Of course it isn't as ideal as ATL or CLT, but it isn't bad, it's actually a pretty central location in the eastern half of the country. The point wouldn't be entirely to connect NE to Florida (remember, IAD could do some of the routes BNA couldn't do well), but to give UA SE travelers a more convenient hub for traveling as opposed to treking all the way to IAD. This being said, the goal here isn't to replace IAD, but to supplement it.
Don't get me wrong, RDU would be fine choice too, but the issue I see there is they already have a strong DL and AA legacy presence that has most of the business traffic locked up, whereas BNA does not have a dominant legacy carrier (AA has been shrinking a bit and DL won't grow much more because of ATL nearby). At BNA, WN is the dominant airline with their focus city, but they are domestic oriented and I question their long term commitment to BNA with their constant growth of STL and the large ATL presence nearby. With all of the Chicago/Northern transplants moving to BNA, Middle Tennessee's increasing ties to Asia (BNA wants a Tokyo flight), and the rapidly growing business community in the Nashville area, I feel UA has a interesting opportunity in Nashville if it works things right.
Granted, this is all speculation right now because UA has more important things (my first two points in the OP) to do in the short term, but I do believe a true SE hub will need to happen as soon as UA is in the position to build one. Either BNA or RDU (the only two southeastern markets that could realistically support a UA hub IMO) would be fine with me.