With $1 Billion Expansion, Nashville Airport Pursues The International Flight That Got Away

Aug 2, 2016

Among the Nashville International Airport’s newly announced $1 billion expansion is an emphasis on the “international” part of its name. A renovated building for overseas arrivals would be one of the first projects.

While it is possible to jet from Nashville to Canada or Mexico, the Bahamas or Jamaica, many in the business community have been stinging for 20 years now, since American Airlines ended its direct flight to London.

For several years, airport President Rob Wigington has listed that destination, along with Tokyo and Mexico City, on his wish list — but always with a warning to be patient.

“Trying to get international service to markets the size of Nashville is not easy … the carriers overseas, they have opportunities all over the world,” he said.

He says it’s a matter of convincing airlines they’d make money. That hinges mostly on how many business travelers and first-class passengers Nashville can offer, then running the projections for particular routes and types of airplanes.

But it would also help, he says, to upgrade an international wing that was built in the mid-80s.

“It’s gotten us by for these years, but we now have a lot more international service.”

Wigington says Nashville’s largest carrier, Southwest Airlines, has interest in Latin America. Flights to Asia might require a new carrier. As for London, he’s hopeful, but wouldn’t be more specific than saying he wants that flight in the next couple years.

“It will happen,” he said.