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There are strong reasons to believe passengers numbers will improve at Northwest Arkansas National Airport in the coming week, but the pandemic remained front and center for travelers in February.

The 21,647 people who boarded flights at XNA last month were two more passengers than the airport saw in January. The average plane carried 46 passengers; up from 37 in January.

 The airlines in February flew about one-third as many flights from XNA as they did in February 2020, the last month of flying before the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted travel across the U.S. in March.

There are reasons to be hopeful about the weeks ahead and a wide belief that travel can increase in a safe way.

One of the primary reasons for hope is the number of people getting vaccinated as Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are now in use across the U.S. About 34 million people, or about 10% of U.S. residents, have been fully vaccinated.

It is starting to get easier to find an appoinntment for a vaccination. The Northwest Arkansas Council has created an online calendar that allows people to easily find how to sign up and where to go for vaccinations.

Americans already are starting to travel on planes more often in the U.S. The Transportation Security Administration’s online tracker shows more than 1 million people moved through TSA checkpoints at U.S. airports six times in March’s first 11 days. That happened just 10 times in all of January and February, and half of those occurrences were in the final days of February.

That’s still a long way from the amount of travel that occurred in early March 2019 or 2020 when those same days generally saw more than 2 million people checked by the TSA at U.S airports.

The airlines are recognizing the upward trend and scheduling more flights at XNA and nationally.

At XNA, Allegiant announced it will start new nonstop flights to Austin, beginning in July. Those twice-a-week flights take off on Mondays and Fridays.

American Airlines, XNA’s dominant airline, plans to restart nonstop service to Miami and Washington Reagan in April. Those daily flights were dropped from the XNA schedule months ago as airlines started cutting flights.