Northwest Arkansas National Airport shared its final 2019 passenger data on Tuesday, closing out what’s arguably been the airport’s best year since it was established 21 years ago.
The airlines serving XNA boarded a whopping 922,533 passengers last year. New service options offered by the airlines throughout the year made such big gains possible.
The number of passengers boarding flights was 17% higher than the 788,261 passengers in 2018.
The December enplanements were particularly strong, boosted by the fact that one of the busiest travel days of the year (the Sunday after Thanksgiving) occurred on Dec. 1 rather than in the final days of November.
Northwest Arkansas residents have paid close attention to the numbers put up by Frontier Airlines since its first flight to Denver took off on June 27.
Frontier closed the year with a solid month as December’s load factor was 85%. The low-cost carrier averaged 158 passengers in the airline’s 186-seat planes during the month, but it’ll take a steady stream of passengers to ensure the airline’s long-term success.
The airline flies on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to Denver, and its presence has caused competitor United Airlines to lower the cost of its flights to Denver.
The other big additions at XNA in 2019 came from American and Allegiant airlines.
American, which has remained the largest carrier at XNA since its opening in 1998, added nonstop service to Philadelphia in September and Miami in late December. Both additions are a boon to international travelers who can more easily reach destinations in Europe, the Caribbean and South America.
Allegiant, which started offering nonstop flights from XNA to Las Vegas and Los Angeles in 2009, has continued building up its XNA offerings. In 2019, it stepped up the summertime frequency of flights to Destin and added new seasonal service to Nashville and Phoenix/Mesa.
United Airlines made changes, too. It increased how many times a day it flies from XNA to Chicago O’Hare, and its daily trips to Denver are more frequent as well.
United also upgraded to CRJ-550s on some of the trips to Chicago. The planes offer just 50 seats in a space originally designed to carry 70 passengers, creating more comfort for passengers.
All the new service in 2019 and the additional competition created by Frontier and Allegiant appears to be helping passengers interested in finding lower airfares. For instance, it’s possible to fly in April for less than $270 roundtrip to more than a dozen cities, including Austin, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami and New York/Newark.