Northwest Arkansas National Airport is within hours of becoming an airport with nonstop flights to four Florida cities and it won’t be long before there are six routes to the Sunshine State.
Breeze Airways, which announced its plan on May 21 to make nonstop flights from the Arkansas airport to New Orleans, San Antonio and Tampa, begins its Tampa service on Thursday.
The first flight to Tampa from XNA departs at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, and seats on that inaugural flight remained available for purchase late Tuesday night.
The new low-cost airline kicks off its New Orleans and San Antonio service on July 15.
The May 21 announcement by Breeze was arguably the biggest new air service announcement in XNA’s 22 years. While flights to American Airlines Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to cities such as Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and New York are important because of the high number of XNA travelers who fly to those cities, no airline serving XNA has announced a three-city expansion on a single day.
Breeze will provide its year-round service to New Orleans, San Antonio and Tampa four times a week, departing on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Allegiant Air plans to start flights to St. Petersburg/Clearwater and Fort Lauderdale, meaning XNA will have nonstops to six Florida cities by mid-October.
The fares on Breeze are among the most affordable from XNA to all three of its nonstop cities. Trips to Tampa on Tuesday night were available this month and in July for $150 to $200 roundtrip, depending on the travel days, Yet, there are even better deals to be had later this year, with far more super cheap trips to New Orleans and San Antonio than Tampa.
While Breeze does charge fees for certain extras such as priority boarding of a flight, its fees for checked and carry-on bags are among the best in the airline business. Checked bags and carry-ons are $20 apiece.
The model of less-than-daily service by Breeze at XNA matches the approach used by Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air, but the planes themselves are far different. Rather than the 180-seat Airbuses used by Allegiant and Frontier, Breeze will use 108- and 118-seat Embraers. The smaller plane size make it possible for Breeze to fly more often to XNA; Allegiant and Frontier serve some of their cities just twice a week.
While Breeze is new, its leadership is not. Its president and CEO is entrepreneur David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue, Azul Brazilian Airlines, Morris Air and WestJet.