Three low-cost carriers at Northwest Arkansas National Airport charge about one-third as much as their larger competitors, new federal data shows.
The fourth quarter 2022 data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows low-cost carriers Allegiant Air, Breeze Airways and Frontier Airlines provide great deals for leisure travelers.
While American, Delta and United’s fares averaged well above $500 during the quarter, the average roundtrip on Breeze Airways sold for $90. Average fares charged by Frontier ($150) and Allegiant ($154) were also impressive.
The overall pricing story at XNA isn’t so rosy, and only about 20% of XNA travelers fly the low-cost carriers. Moreover, the low-cost carriers don’t fly to critical business destinations, including New York, Atlanta and Chicago.
The data shows the average roundtrip from XNA sold for $508 in last year’s fourth quarter. It was $60 more than the same quarter in 2019. Airports continue to use 2019 for comparisons due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on air travel in 2020, 2021 and the first months of 2022.
High airfares have a negative impact on the region’s corporations because so many of them pay for hundreds or thousands of business trips a year. High fares raise business costs.
That high cost of fares is why the Northwest Arkansas Council works with XNA to recruit new air service as increased competition should lead to lower fares. It’s also why the Council created its FareFlightNWA program to encourage travelers to fly from XNA over more distant airports when affordable fares are available.
Who charges the most?
Delta Air Lines, which carries the majority of travelers going to Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul, had the highest fares, averaging $616 in the fourth quarter. Roundtrips on American Airlines ($602) and United Airlines ($538) were pricey, too.
Among the airport’s leading destinations, San Francisco was the most expensive place to fly. The 43 people a day who flew to Bay Area airports paid $716, on average. The route was less expensive when United offered a nonstop to San Francisco in 2019, and the airline’s average fare was $522. However, United canceled the nonstop soon after the pandemic started impacting U.S. air travel.
New Orleans, Nashville were least expensive
The best of all the deals were for those who flew Breeze Airways to New Orleans in the fourth quarter. Their average fare was $69. The average flight to Tampa on Breeze went for $91.
Allegiant’s best deals were often on Nashville flights ($78). Its flights to the St. Pete/Clearwater airport in the Tampa metro weren’t much more expensive ($110). Even the airline’s most expensive, busiest destinations of Las Vegas and Orlando/Sanford were less than $200.
Frontier’s passengers went almost exclusively on nonstops to Denver, paying $132.
XNA and other airports continue to rebuild business traffic that was disrupted by the pandemic.
The airport’s leading destination – New York – saw 156 people a day fly to it from XNA. It was 189 in 2019’s fourth quarter.
While travel to New York remained a step behind where it was in 2019, trips to No. 2 destination Chicago and No. 3 Los Angeles were back to pre-pandemic levels. Trips to No. 4 destination Denver and No. 5 Dallas/Fort Worth need to increase by about 10% to return to where the were in 2019.
Some of the best competition between airlines comes for travelers going to Chicago, Tampa/St. Petersburg and Denver.
While American carried more people to Chicago than United (65 a day vs. 58 a day) in 2022’s fourth quarter, fares on United were generally less expensive (United $402; American $480).
In Florida, Breeze captured 35 of the 86 people a day going to the Tampa/St. Petersburg metro, and Allegiant gained 33 of them.
In Denver, United and Frontier have been fighting for XNA passengers since Frontier started flying there in mid-2019.
Frontier is the Denver market’s top carrier from XNA with 55 of the 102 people a day choosing it over United. The cost of flying Frontier was far less than United ($132 vs. $474). While Frontier has some of the most expensive checked and carry-on bag fees in the airline industry, those high bag fees won’t close that $342 difference in price.