Northwest Arkansas National Airport has four airlines providing nonstop flights to eight places in Florida.
It’s the same number of Florida nonstops as Eppley Airfield, the primary airport in Omaha, Neb., which sees almost three times as many passengers as XNA. It’s two more Florida destinations than Tulsa International Airport, which is twice the size of XNA in passenger terms.
There’s no question that eight routes to Florida is a lot for XNA. The airport by week’s end will have flights to 25 other airports, and eight will be to the Sunshine State.
But which route to Florida has the highest value to Northwest Arkansas from a business and leisure perspective?
FareFlightNWA took a shot at ranking the routes in a super debatable order of importance, taking into account where the planes fly, the frequency of the flights, and whether it’s all year or seasonal service. If the flight has both a business and leisure trip value, there’s a bump for that, too.
We’ll start with the least valuable and end with the route that should matter the most to XNA travelers.
No. 8 Punta Gorda
It’s great that Allegiant is going to Punta Gorda, starting on Wednesday this week. It is the best way to get to the Fort Myers area, but its Wednesday/Saturday schedule isn’t ideal. The company’s Sunseeker Resort that’s now under construction in Punta Gorda increases the value of the route, but it’s still No. 8 on this list.
No. 7 Destin
Allegiant flights to Destin are popular, but those flights don’t provide access to a major metropolitan area like most of the other Florida flights. It’s also seasonal service, so that makes its value less than year-round flights to other places.
No. 6: St. Pete-Clearwater
The Allegiant flights to St. Pete-Clearwater were announced just three days after Breeze Airways said it would fly to Tampa from XNA. The St. Pete-Clearwater airport is the second-best option in the Tampa market. The St. Pete route creates competition for Breeze, which is good, and it is another way to reach one of Florida’s major metros.
No. 5 Fort Lauderdale
The Fort Lauderdale route on Allegiant provides another way to get to the Miami area, providing important access to cruise ports and a market that’s needed by business and leisure travelers. But, at twice a week, it’s value is pretty limited for business travelers, and Allegiant knows it.
No. 4 Orlando
Frontier is new to Orlando International Airport with its twice-a-week service that started Nov. 1. Because it’s to the important Orlando market, its value is higher than flights to places like Destin and Punta Gorda. It creates value by providing competition to Allegiant’s Orlando-Sanford trips. Orlando International is closer to Walt DisneyWorld than the Orlando-Sanford airport, so that’s a plus, too.
No. 3 Miami
America Airlines has flown Miami as a daily route in the past, but it’s just once a week on Saturdays right now. American is XNA’s most important airline and it carries so many more XNA business travelers than every other airline serving Northwest Arkansas. The Saturday flight is an option to an important business and leisure destination, giving it a value that’s higher than some other Florida options. It would undoubtedly be No. 1 on this list if it flew the route on a daily or near-daily basis.
No. 2 Tampa
Breeze Airways is new to XNA, but its flights to Tampa International Airport have been the most popular of its three offerings from the airport (the others are San Antonio and New Orleans). Tampa is definitely one of Florida’s most important cities, and Breeze flying there four times a week combined with what Allegiant is doing at St. Pete/Clearwater means the Tampa market has more service from XNA than any other Florida place. If the airline had more history at XNA, it might be No. 1.
No. 1 Orlando-Sanford
The Allegiant flights to Orlando-Sanford have a long history from XNA, and it’s one of the main reasons it’s at the top of this list. The airline has provided the service for more than a decade to one of Florida’s most important leisure and business destinations, but this flight is all about the leisure fliers looking for an inexpensive flight. It has limited value to business travelers because it doesn’t fly often enough, but Allegiant does a nice job of increasing the frequency at busy leisure travel times such as spring break in March and throughout the summer.