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Hello, Austin!

Allegiant Air earlier today announced that it would begin providing nonstop flights from Northwest Arkansas National Airport to the Texas capital city.

The service is scheduled to start in July.

Northwest Arkansas National Airport has never had nonstop commercial service to Austin, the home of the University of Texas that’s known for its incredible live music scene. Austin is one of the Top 20 destinations for people departing from XNA.

The Austin-to-Northwest Arkansas option was among 34 new nonstop routes announced by Allegiant today. The Austin trip from XNA to Austin on select dates was selling this morning for $49 each way.

“As summer approaches, we expect a lot of pent-up demand for travel, especially for places where people can hike, fish, camp or visit the beach,” said Drew Wells, Allegiant’s senior vice president of revenue. “With this expansion, we’ve added even more service to destinations known for their outdoor appeal. Now, with Allegiant’s low-cost, nonstop service, travelers will have easy, affordable access to the cities they want to visit.”

In 2019, people departing from XNA made more than 9,000 trips to Austin, or about 25 per day. While American and United airlines carried the vast majority of those travelers, who probably connected at either DFW (American) or Houston (United), a small number of Austin-bound travelers who live in Northwest Arkansas drove to the Tulsa airport before departing for Austin.

Allegiant’s nonstop flights to Austin, which will occur on Mondays and Fridays, should capture a portion of those American, United and Tulsa travelers, but the availability of the nonstop option from XNA is likely to increase the total number of people who go to Austin.

There’s strong evidence that Allegiant will be able to increase that XNA-to-Austin traffic. After the airline started nonstop service from XNA to airports such as those in Orlando/Sanford, Nashville and other cities, it led to far more people making those trip because passengers have a strong preference for nonstop flights. Moreover, Allegiant typically offers less expensive fares than other airlines.

Austin has long been a place relied on by the Northwest Arkansas Council as a peer region to show what Northwest Arkansas may look like someday. Many people view Northwest Arkansas as a much smaller version of Austin, or as a place that feels like Austin did 30 years ago. The Austin metropolitan area’s population in 1990 was near 560,000; Northwest Arkansas is near 550,000 today. Now, Austin’s metro exceeds 2.2 million people, and it’s adding about 100 people a day to its population.

Recognizing the growth and the opportunities that growth creates, Allegiant continues to increase its presence in Austin and at XNA.

By this summer, Allegiant will be flying to more than a dozen cities from Austin. As part of its largest expansion ever that was announced in January, it added flights from Austin to Des Moines, Iowa; Asheville, N.C.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Knoxville, Tenn.

At XNA a decade ago, Allegiant flew only to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando/Sanford. In more recent years, it’s added service to Nashville, Destin and Phoenix/Mesa.