Northwest Arkansas National Airport followed the best month ever with its second-best month in its nearly 25 years.
Boosted by summertime leisure travelers who packed the planes of three low-cost carriers, XNA saw 93,860 passengers in July. June was the best month with 97,842 people boarding flights taking off from XNA.
Led by Allegiant Air, the low-cost carriers accounted for 23% of all XNA travelers. Allegiant, which jets passengers off to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville and several Florida destinations in the summer months, carried 72% of passengers who were on XNA’s low-cost airlines. Breeze Airways and Frontier Airlines divided the remainder.
Will XNA beat 2019?
The short answer is probably.
To beat the record 922,533 who boarded flights in 2019, XNA must average a little more than 72,000 passengers each month for the remainder of the year. That should be achievable as the last five months in 2022 averaged about 72,400 people.
XNA in the first seven months this year easily beat the same months in both 2019 and 2022. There’s nothing to suggest that pattern won’t continue.
What could come into play and throw XNA off course as it plows toward a record year would be something happening that impacts air travel nationwide. It wouldn’t have to be as catastrophic as COVID-19, but it would have to be significant enough to cause people to curtail air travel in a meaningful way.
Another disrupter would be for an airline to reduce its operations at XNA, but that seems unlikely.
Representatives of the primary XNA carriers — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — often express to airport officials that they are pleased with the vast majority of the XNA routes. Even if the airlines had routes that were only doing so-so, they may well keep them in place to satisfy the needs of big corporate customers like Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt Transport Services.
Low-cost airline changing
While the legacy carriers generally fly to the cities they serve all year long, low-cost carriers shift, adjust and change flights on a regular basis. They also have seasonal changes they make most years, and those changes will impact people wanting to fly from XNA.
This year’s planned changes by the low-cost carriers at XNA that may matter to people who want to go to:
- New Orleans. Breeze Airways will pause its twice-a-week nonstop from XNA to New Orleans after Sept. 4. It comes back Oct. 5.
- Destin. Allegiant Air, which has been flying to Destin five days a week this summer, will reduce it to twice a week in late October. The reduction, which happens most years, gets deeper in December as the airline will fly to the Florida Panhandle city from XNA just three times.
- St. Petersburg/Clearwater. Allegiant has already paused its twice-a-week flights to the airport in the Tampa metro. They restart Oct. 5. The pause is something Allegiant does with Tampa metro flights from multiple airports in September.
- Phoenix/Mesa. Allegiant on Nov. 16 will restart seasonal trips to Phoenix/Mesa. They’ll take off every Thursday and Sunday.
- Football flights. Delta and United will offer one-time junkets to support fans wanting to attend University of Arkansas games. United has nonstop flights scheduled on the Friday before Arkansas games in Baton Rouge (against LSU) and to Birmingham (Alabama plays in nearby Tuscaloosa). They’ll return to XNA on the Sunday after the Saturday game. Additionally, there aren’t many seats left on Delta’s special Sept. 15 flight from Salt Lake City to Northwest Arkansas, as BYU fans have just about filled up the plane.