It’s usually the winter weather and the return to school after the holiday season that limits January travel from Northwest Arkansas National Airport, but this year had the extra challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just 21,645 people departed on commercial flights from XNA last month, its lowest January total in 22 years. To put the January performance in perspective, there were 67,306 travelers during the same month last year. It was the best January in the airport’s history.
The airport made its monthly statistics public on Monday.
While every airline serving XNA has curtailed its service to the airport throughout the pandemic, there are a indications that airlines are ready to expand their schedules again. For example, low-cost carrier Allegiant Air announced last week that it would fly twice a week to Austin, starting the seasonal service on July 2. By that time, millions of additional people in the U.S. are expected to have received the necessary doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, increasing the safety of travel.
In January, American Airlines remained the busiest of the airlines. It carried about 52% of XNA travelers, and its 282 flights averaged 40 passengers.
United, which has surpassed Delta Air Lines to become XNA’s No. 2 carrier, transported 18% of travelers. There were 36 passengers on the average flight.
Delta, which is offering nonstop flights only to Atlanta for now, averaged 32 passengers per trip last month.
Low-cost carriers Frontier Airlines and Allegiant are seeing more passengers on their flights as leisure travel throughout the pandemic has become a more significant portion of the flying from XNA.
Frontier, which flew 10 times last month to Denver, averaged 108 passengers on its 168-seat planes.
Allegiant, which made trips to Orlando/Sanford, Las Vegas, Phoenix/Mesa and Nashville in January, averaged 73 passengers. Most of Allegiant’s XNA flights can carry 156 passengers.