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What’s the possibility that larger airports across the U.S. would trade their 2019 successes straight up for those at Northwest Arkansas National Airport?

We’d venture to guess that many would trade in a New York minute.

It’s been a banner year for XNA, probably the best in the airport’s 21 years.

We compiled a list of top 10 successes at XNA in 2019. This list comes in order, with our favorites all the way down at the bottom. No fair reading ahead, either.

The competition was stiff in 2019.

Here we go.

10. FareFlightNWA’s creation. You didn’t think we’d leave our program off this list, did you? The new FareFlightNWA website and program of the Northwest Arkansas Council encourages travelers to prioritize XNA over other airports, and FareFlight’s staff made more than 15 presentations in 2019 at civic group meetings about why support of XNA helps Northwest Arkansas in more ways than many people realize.

Click photo for video of United’s CRJ-550 that flies from XNA and other airports to Chicago O’Hare.

9. Comfortable flights. United Airlines put its reconfigured Bombardier CRJ-550s with first-class seating at XNA and 14 other airports in middle America. The upgraded XNA service to Chicago O’Hare started in October. With 50 seats in a plane that generally carries more than 70 passengers, there’s ample legroom. A nice upgrade.

8. Record-breaking months. XNA surged past 90,000 passengers in a single month in June when 91,305 boarded flights. Prior to June, XNA’s best month was May (85,892). The best month two months in a row is impressive.

7. Allegiant to Phoenix-Mesa. Allegiant Air has continued to invest in Northwest Arkansas service, and its seasonal service to Phoenix-Mesa that started in November should be great for those looking for a cold-weather escape. The Phoenix average high temperature in the winter months is 65 to 68 degrees.

6. Allegiant to Music City. The service by Allegiant Air to Nashville started June 6 and continued until mid-August. The seasonal service will be longer in 2020, starting in February and continuing throughout the summer. Travel & Leisure magazine ranked Nashville as the No. 7 city to visit in the U.S.

Located in West Philadelphia’s Powelton Village neighborhood, Drexel Park boasts arguably the best skyline view of Center City Philadelphia. Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philly.

5. American to Philadelphia. American’s decision to start offering a daily nonstop flight to Philadelphia in September was a win for Northwest Arkansas. It’s an important connection to Europe. Side note – XNA is the smallest airport west of the Mississippi River with nonstop service to Philly.

4. Record-breaking year. It’s hard to believe it’s already a record-breaking year and XNA didn’t need a single passenger this month to achieve it. Its total through November was 844,849, 7.1% more than in all of 2018.

XNA’s airlines deserve credit for the record as they beefed up their XNA service in 2019, adding more nonstop flights to existing destinations and starting service to new cities (Miami, Nashville, etc.). The airport should exceed 900,000 passengers in 2019.

3. Decreasing airfares. XNA’s domestic round-trip airfares are decreasing, but it’s gained little attention. The second quarter fares in 2019 averaged $492, the lowest quarterly average in almost three years and 9% lower than last year’s second quarter. That second quarter number was far superior to XNA’s average domestic fare last year ($538).

Something to pay attention to is the 2019 third-quarter average fare that will be shared in January by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It’ll be the first time Northwest Arkansas will see how the presence of Frontier Airlines has impacted the average. Frontier’s flights to Denver started June 27.

These average fares are so important. Even a $10 decrease in the average round-trip fares saves the region’s business and leisure travelers about $9 million ($10 x 900,000 passengers in 2019). Experts believe the average will decrease significantly more as more competition arrives at XNA.

2. American to Miami. Northwest Arkansas has about 60 people a day fly to south Florida destinations and American Airlines provides most of those flights. Its nonstop trips to Miami that started Dec. 19 make a ton of sense. The first flight was packed with Caribbean-bound travelers.

1. Frontier Airlines arrives at XNA. Was there doubt this would be No. 1? When the three-times-a-week flights to Denver started on June 27, airfares to Denver plummeted.

It’s often possible to fly Frontier for less than $100 roundtrip, but the airline’s presence caused United Airlines to lower fares to less than $200 roundtrip on many days. Now, Northwest Arkansas must support the service Frontier provides by boarding the flights. The airline had a great July and a solid August, but more passengers in the coming months will be necessary for Frontier to find long-term success at XNA.

We’d love to hear your feedback on our list. What did we miss? Lists like this are great conversation starters.

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