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A new report shows average airfares declined for the third quarter in a row at Northwest Arkansas National Airport, but a deeper look at the federal data confirms which airlines are offering the best fares to each destination.

In every instance, fares on Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines were far less expensive than their competitors charged to the same cities.

The airfare data for the third quarter of 2019 was made public last week by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and it showed XNA’s average domestic fare dipped to $468 roundtrip. That’s $50 less than the same quarter of 2018, and it’s the lowest average fare from XNA compared to any quarter in the past five years.

Nothing is more notable than what’s happening with airfares to Denver.

Frontier, which started its three-times-a-week flights from XNA to the Mile High City on June 27, charged an average of $91 roundtrip in the third quarter.

United Airlines, which also offers nonstop travel to Denver, averaged $368. In the first half of 2019 and before Frontier offered flights to Denver, United’s average airfare was more than $480 to Denver.

The averages are based on an origin and destination survey that includes a 10 percent sample of all domestic flights operated by U.S. airlines.

It’s not just Frontier that’s offering affordable trips.

Allegiant Air, which has no nonstop competition on its flights to Destin, Las Vegas, Nashville and Orlando/Sanford, was the least expensive option for travel to those cities during the third quarter, and it wasn’t close.

Allegiant’s average passenger paid less to travel to and from Destin ($109), Las Vegas ($156), Nashville ($75) and Orlando/Sanford ($103) than passengers on other airlines did.

Trips to Nashville on American Airlines ($514) and Delta Air Lines ($464) were significantly more expensive. American and Delta averaged more than $450 for trips to Orlando; more than $490 to Las Vegas.

Allegiant was also less expensive to Los Angeles, the only route where it does have nonstop competition. American Airlines had an average fare of $689 to LAX in the quarter; Allegiant was $196. The drawback to the Allegiant twice-a-week flight to LAX is it’s only available in the summer months, and it restarts June 3.

What’s interesting about flights to other nonstop destinations from XNA is how different the average fare is compared to some of the airfare deals that routinely show up on travel search engines such as Kayak and Travelocity. For instance, it’s often possible to fly to New York or Newark on American, United or Delta Air Lines for about $200 roundtrip, but the average fare in the third quarter to New York LaGuardia on American ($480) and Delta ($476) was far higher. It was $573 on United to Newark.

It’s probable that the average to Atlanta, Chicago, New York and other cities on American, Delta and United is heavily influenced by XNA’s abundance of business travelers. Those travelers are more likely to purchase expensive, last-minute trips or first-class seats than leisure travelers, driving up the average fare.

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