Airports across the nation are reporting impressive year-end passenger numbers, but most don’t hold a candle to what happened at Northwest Arkansas National Airport in 2019.
XNA boarded 134,272 more passengers in 2019 than it did the previous year.
To put that big growth in perspective, Tulsa International Airport, Springfield-Branson National Airport and Clinton National Airport in Little Rock added a combined 128,158 passengers last year.
It was a great air-travel year in most U.S. regions. News accounts tell of passenger growth at airports in Oklahoma City (2% growth); Minneapolis-St. Paul (4%); Tucson (5%); Wichita (5%); Las Vegas (6%); Columbus, Ohio (6%); San Jose (9%); Bismarck, N.D. (10%); and Fresno (11%).
Similarly, there was growth in nearby Tulsa (1.1%), Little Rock (5.1%) and Springfield-Branson (10.5%).
Yet, none of those places matched XNA’s more than 17% growth in passengers, much of which can be attributed to bigger planes, a new airline and air service to new cities.
Frontier Airlines started service at XNA, flying to Denver. American Airlines added nonstop service to Philadelphia and Miami, and Allegiant Air started seasonal flights to Nashville and Phoenix/Mesa.
There was at least two airports that did better than XNA in 2019, and both of those airports saw big growth because airlines created new flying opportunities for travelers.
Asheville, N.C., for instance, saw 43% growth. Allegiant added flights to West Palm Beach and American Airlines started service to three major U.S. airports in May.
The other is in Florida where the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport saw traffic swell by 58%. That growth can be attributed to Allegiant Air, which flew to three cities from the airport two years ago. It now has 15 additional destinations from Sarasota.