Skip to main content

Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines had one of its best months since it started flying out of Northwest Arkansas National Airport in mid-2019.

That was among the highlights of the airport’s monthly passenger report that showed 61,364 people boarded flights at XNA in September. Since the pandemic’s start in early 2020, the only better month at XNA was July this year when the airport saw a surge in summer travel lead to 66,324 passengers.

Frontier, which started flying to Denver from XNA in June 2019, added a twice-a-week nonstop flight from XNA to Las Vegas in mid-August. The combination of people traveling to Denver and Las Vegas helped boost Frontier’s stats in September to 3,045 passengers. Its average flight from XNA carried 138 passengers last month.

The airline’s overall passenger number could increase more, too, as Frontier is about to begin twice-a-week flights to Orlando International. That starts Nov. 1 with the flights taking off every Monday and Friday.

By a wide margin, American Airlines remains XNA’s largest carrier. It transported 30,182 of the 61,364 passengers, or 49.1% of everyone who traveled from XNA in September.

What’s growing most at XNA are the low-cost carriers both in terms of number of flights and passengers. While Frontier had a great September, its success comes with the summertime arrival of Breeze Airways at XNA and the rapid expansion of Allegiant Air that have made so many low-cost flights available.

In 2021, low-cost carriers Allegiant, Frontier and Breeze have carried about 17.4% of XNA’s travelers. In comparison, Allegiant was the only low-cost carrier at XNA in 2018, and it carried 5.3% of the airport’s travelers that year.

Leisure travelers are taking notice of the low-cost carriers, which often sell roundtrip flights to cities such as Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Austin and New Orleans for less than $100 roundtrip. People paying those low fares have impacting the average fare at XNA in a big way.

Data kept by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows the average roundtrip fare at XNA in the first quarter of this year was $366. The COVID-19 pandemic, which kept many travelers away from airports and caused many airlines to reduce their fares, as well as the availability of more low-cost flights factored into that lower-than-normal XNA fare. The average was $519 in 2019’s first quarter.