The planned merger of ultra low-cost carriers could result in a good outcome for Northwest Arkansas National Airport and other airports like it.
When they come together as one company, Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines will become the nation’s fifth largest airline behind American, Delta, United and Southwest. The merger was announced Monday, and it must gain U.S. Justice Department approval.
Denver-based Frontier provides flights from XNA to Denver, Las Vegas and Orlando. With its headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Spirit does not serve XNA.
The opportunity for XNA and the other airports is created by the significant service overlap that exists between Frontier and Spirit. Right now, they compete for customers on 30% of their routes, often offering rock-bottom fares to gain passengers’ attention and business.
That overlap could help XNA, and here’s how: A PowerPoint presentation shared with stock market investors on Monday shows both airlines sell flights from Las Vegas to Dallas/Fort Worth. Spirit makes that trip three times a day; Frontier does it twice.
The expectation is that the merged airline is unlikely to provide five flights between the two cities in the long term, meaning there would be planes available to use for flights to new places such as Northwest Arkansas.
Frontier first arrived at XNA in 2019, flying three times a week to Denver. Its addition of nonstop flights to Las Vegas and Orlando occurred in 2021.
That increase in flights has allowed Frontier to become a larger portion of the people who fly from XNA. With its only trips to Denver in 2020, it accounted for about 3% of all XNA passengers. Adding Las Vegas and Orlando flights allowed it to grow to 4.5% of all XNA travelers last year.