Northwest Arkansas National Airport will see its airlines add nonstop service to at least seven new airports to the south and east before year’s end, but It’s expansions by Frontier Airlines that are making westbound travel affordable.
Denver-based Frontier, which drew attention when it announced in June that it would offer nonstop flights to Las Vegas starting Aug. 13, has quietly expanded the frequency of its flights from XNA to Denver.
Frontier has updated its schedule to show that it will make the XNA-to-Denver flight five days a week, starting Aug. 15 and continuing through Oct. 8. After that, the airline’s schedule shows it’ll sell seats on a four-times-a-week flight to the Mile High City.
Frontier started service from XNA to Denver in late June 2019, and that three-times-a-week flight by the low-cost carrier caused United Airlines to decrease how much it charges to fly nonstop to Denver. Those Frontier flights drew 2,159 passengers in July 2019, and that remains the airline’s best month at XNA.
However, the airline’s second and third best numbers came in May and June this year, drawing just short of 2,100 passengers each month. Those solid months likely factored into Frontier’s decision to expand at XNA.
Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic starting impacting domestic air travel in March 2020, Frontier made some of the most drastic cutbacks at XNA. It flew from XNA to Denver just once in April 2020, carrying only 10 passengers on its 180-seat Airbus. The numbers started increasing slowly after that, boarding 900 to 1,400 passengers a month through April this year.
Three low-cost carriers — Allegiant, Breeze and Frontier — carried about 15% of all XNA travelers in the first half of this year, and that amount should increase in the coming months as the new low-cost routes start.
Not yet factored into the percentage of travelers on the low-cost carriers are Breeze’s nonstop flights to New Orleans and San Antonio that started July 15, or Allegiant’s nonstops to Austin and St. Petersburg/Clearwater that first flew on July 2.
More nonstop service is on its way. Allegiant starts nonstops to Fort Lauderdale and Houston later this year.
Prior to Frontier’s arrival in mid-2019, Allegiant was the only low-cost carrier at XNA and it transported about 7% of the airport’s travelers.