It’s normal for September to be a little slower than July and August at Northwest Arkansas National Airport, but nothing is normal about 2020.
The airport’s passenger numbers, in fact, didn’t change much in September compared to the previous two months, but all three months were a shadow of themselves. Data shared by XNA on Friday showed 25,453 people boarded flights last month. It was 385 more passengers than August and 286 less than July.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact air travel and no indications that the situation will improve significantly in the coming months, XNA is on pace for about 360,000 travelers by year’s end. It’ll need to average 30,000 a month for the rest of the year to hit that mark.
The airport saw 922,533 passengers in 2019.
American Airlines remains XNA’s busiest airline. It carried 14,048 passengers, or 55% of all the airport’s September travelers.
Delta Air Lines was No. 2 with 3,952 passengers, or about 16% of the airport’s business. it was Delta’s best month at XNA since March.
There are signs nationally and at XNA that business travelers are slowly returning to the skies. Those business travelers started staying away from U.S. airports soon after the pandemic began impacting air travel in a big way in March, and it was leisure travelers who provided support for airports and airlines throughout the summer.
However, the leisure travelers alone weren’t in position to make summer anything like normal. Summer days in 2019 had 2.2 million to 2.7 million fliers, and this year it was typical to see 650,000 to 700,000 daily fliers.
In the past two weeks, air travel has picked up a bit across the U.S. There have been more than 900,000 passengers on a day seven times in October; that happened just once in September and it never happened in the summertime.
At XNA, the number of people moving through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint is increasing, too. The airport saw 10 of October’s first 18 days with more than 1,000 passengers. That level was reached 10 times in September’s 30 days.