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Northwest Arkansas National Airport ranked as the nation’s 102nd busiest airport last year, data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows.

The preliminary information from the USDOT, which was made available last week, shows XNA had 972,866 paying passengers in 2023. The federal data doesn’t include the people who flew from XNA or other airports who were non-revenue passengers.

XNA has ranked higher (it was No. 99 in 2019), but coming in at No. 102 is a nice improvement over 2020, 2021 and 2022, three years impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airport ranked No. 112 in 2013, and it often falls between No. 104 and 109.

Most airports in 2023 saw big increases in passengers as air travel was still recovering from the pandemic that suppressed flying.

Still, while 65 airports larger than the Northwest Arkansas airport saw passenger increases of 10% or more from 2022 to 2023, only four airports exceeded XNA’s 19.7% growth. Those four were Asheville, N.C.; White Plains, N.Y.; Louisville; and Raleigh.

XNA’s growth in paying passengers exceeded nearby commercial airports in Springfield, Mo. (17.3%); Little Rock (11.6%); Tulsa (8.6%); Fort Smith (-1.8%); Harrison (-21%); and Joplin, Mo. (-30.6%).

The Northwest Arkansas airport, which relies heavily on the business travelers who work for Walmart, Sam’s Club, Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt Transport Services and the hundreds of Walmart suppliers in the region, did well in 2023 because the region’s population keeps growing. About 36 people a day, on average, are added to its population, and it’s expected to top 1 million people by 2050.

All that growth bodes well for XNA’s future.

Air service improvements at XNA have helped boost travel, too. American Airlines, for example, added a daily nonstop flight to Phoenix in February 2023, making it easier for people to get to the places that want to travel.