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Low-cost carriers at Northwest Arkansas National Airport are providing value to businesses and business travelers that isn’t talked about much.

Everyone knows the LCCs sell what are often more affordable fares for leisure trips. Just as importantly, the decisions those airlines make about routes from XNA often lead to positive outcomes for the businesses and business travelers who rely most often on American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

We’ll share four ways the LCCs impact XNA to the benefit of businesses and business travelers.

Impact 1: American to Phoenix

We’ll start with what most people consider the biggest XNA improvement of 2023. It came from American Airlines, but tons of credit goes to Breeze Airways.

Just days after Breeze Airways announced in 2022 that it would start flying nonstop from XNA to Phoenix in 2023, American responded. It announced that it would offer daily Phoenix flights, starting in early 2023.

The Breeze flights didn’t last for long with the competition from American, but the impact lives on.

American right now is making the nonstop trip to Phoenix seven days a week, using a 76-seat Embraer 175. The American flights can be expensive depending on the travel dates (a May 6-9 roundtrip on American’s nonstop was selling for $1,134 this morning), but the value of a daily nonstop flight is high for business travelers looking to save time.

XNA administrators for years asked American to give Phoenix a shot, but it took the Breeze decision to prompt American’s move. American dominates at XNA, and it wasn’t about to let an LCC go to its Phoenix hub without a response.

So, how’s it going? Glad you asked.

Northwest Arkansas has far more people traveling each day with Phoenix as their final destination (46 now vs. 23 in 2019), and the majority of those people are on an American nonstop. Other people are taking an American nonstop to Phoenix and making a layover before flying on to somewhere else.

It’s possible American was already well on its way to deciding it would offer a nonstop to Phoenix when Breeze put the pressure on, but it does look as if the pressure helped establish the American route.

Impact 2: Recruiting talent to NWA

Y’all know there are 10,000 or more job openings in Northwest Arkansas, right? It’s true, and the XNA air travel situation matters to the people considering a new career in the region.

Job candidates have many considerations and everyone knows the big ones: What’s the salary? What’s the health insurance like? How are the schools? What’s the cost of living in Northwest Arkansas?

But then there are a whole series of other considerations that every job applicant will give a different importance to, and one of those has to be how easy it is to travel elsewhere.

Because XNA has LCC flights to places like Destin, Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, to Las Vegas and to Nashville, Northwest Arkansas is a more attractive place for a career move than it would be without those nonstop options.

HR departments all over Northwest Arkansas know the value of the airport’s wide availability of nonstop options.

Impact 3: Lower fares to Denver

It wasn’t so long ago that United offered the only nonstop flights from XNA to Denver, but then Frontier Airlines started going there three days a week in mid-2019. Competition was, and still is, a wonderful thing.

While United’s fares to Denver in early 2019 were often $500 or more roundtrip, the airline lowered its price dramatically on the days when Frontier also had a nonstop flight from XNA to Denver. Hundreds of fliers — even those who never moved from United flights — saved real money because United lowered its fares in a bid to keep its passengers from using Frontier.

Today, there remain meaningful price differences between the United and Frontier roundtrips to Denver, but all the various fees charged by Frontier make apples-to-apples comparisons difficult at best.

We gave it a shot anyway.

We looked at four-day roundtrips (Sunday through Thursday) from XNA to Denver from late April through end of July (15 trip combinations). United’s roundtrips averaged $331. Frontier came in at $219. Both numbers are way below that more than $500 figure in early 2019.

Remember those fees charged by Frontier, though. They are a big deal.

An article published on the Nerd Wallet website suggests Frontier passengers who want a checked bag, a carry-on bag and to select their seat actually end up paying more than they would on United.

The news here isn’t which airlines is less expensive. Rather, it’s that United roundtrips are rarely selling for $500 or more these days, and that’s saving Northwest Arkansas businesses real money if they’re paying to have their employees on planes to Denver.

Impact 4: More nonstop options

Business travelers favor nonstop flights because they save time (no layovers), reduce risk (of weather delays) and avoid hassles (no running to catch a flight).

The LCC provide nonstop to a solid list of cities where the legacy carriers don’t fly directly. The list includes Tampa, New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Nashville and Orlando just to name a few.

Are Allegiant, Frontier and Breeze flights filled with business travelers aiming to save time? No way. It’s largely leisure folks on the LCC flights.

Are the nonstop flights on the LCCs an option that some business travelers see as better than an American, Delta or United flight with a layover somewhere? Yes, they are.