Passengers flying from Northwest Arkansas National Airport saved a mint in the first quarter this year compared to if they had made the same trip in 2019.
New U.S. Department of Transportation statistics analyzed by Volaire Aviation Consulting show the 815 people a day who flew from XNA during the first quarter this year paid an average of $366 roundtrip. That’s compared to a whopping $560 in the first quarter of 2019.
For the vast majority of travelers, the cost was even lower. Domestic flights, which carried 91% of XNA’s travelers, averaged $342 roundtrip, a $162 decrease from two years earlier.
For XNA, the less expensive fares can be tied to at least two factors.
First, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the cost of air travel nationwide as airlines have scrambled to gain the attention of cost-conscious leisure travelers. Business travelers, who often spend more on their trips, just aren’t traveling as much during the pandemic.
But XNA in the first quarter benefitting from the expanded presence of low-cost carriers Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines, and that factored into the better pricing, too.
Frontier’s trips to Denver, for example, didn’t start until June 2019, and those fares averaged just $72 roundtrip in the first quarter this year.
Allegiant, meanwhile, reduced its average fare from $140 in the first quarter of 2019 to just $104 this year. Despite the pandemic, the airline saw only an 18% decrease in customers. That’s compared to the decreases experienced by American (-57%), Delta (-71%) and United (-67%).
The lower prices weren’t limited to Allegiant and Frontier. All the airlines serving XNA charged their passengers far less during this year’s first quarter. The average American Airlines roundtrip flight sold for $384, 28% less than in 2019.
That downward pricing trend could continue at XNA as low-cost carriers are rapidly expanding their offerings. New nonstops flights on Allegiant to Austin and St. Petersburg/Clearwater as well flights on new low-cost Breeze Airways to Tampa, New Orleans and San Antonio all started this summer, creating additional options for passengers.
Other statistics that stood out in the federal data include:
- Denver savings. United and Frontier now compete for customers to the Mile High City, and United had no nonstop competition in the first quarter 2019. That’s led to the average cost of a Denver trip decreasing by 57%. What was a $458 roundtrip averaged just $198 in the first quarter this year.
- More Arizona. XNA saw an increase in the number of people going to Phoenix/Mesa despite concerns about the pandemic. It was the only XNA destination to experience an increase compared to two years earlier, and it could be because the average fare plunged from $574 in 1Q2019 to just $212 in 1Q2021. Allegiant, which dominates the Phoenix route from XNA, charged less than $100 roundtrip and didn’t start flying to Phoenix/Mesa until November 2019.
- Fewer bites at the Big Apple. Two of XNA’s top three destinations in 1Q2019 — New York/Newark and Chicago — slide back significantly. New York, often called the Big Apple, ranked No. 12 with just 15.5 people a day flying there; Chicago fells to No. 13 with 14 fliers a day. Dallas/Fort Worth remained a top three destination for XNA travelers.