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Most airports saw huge increases in their number of passengers last year, but not many in the middle of the country were able to match the growth of Northwest Arkansas National Airport.

New data shared by the Federal Aviation Administration on its website late this month shows XNA’s number of people boarding flights increased by 35.8% in 2022 when compared to 2021.

The data shows XNA was the nation’s 104th busiest airport. Tulsa International Airport, which competes with XNA, was No. 82. Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock was No. 97.

Big passenger increases were common at airports nationwide because COVID-19’s impact on flying was far less significant in 2022.

Biggest increase in 500 miles

No airport within 500 miles of XNA witnessed so much growth in 2022. The nearest airport with more growth is in Austin, Texas, where Austin-Bergstrom International saw a 55.8% increase.

Much of what the airports in Northwest Arkansas and Austin saw was driven by people returning to flying after the COVID-19 pandemic, but what really pushed the number of fliers higher in the two communities were airlines’ new offerings.

In Austin, two new airlines — KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Virgin Atlantic — started providing service. Austin saw Southwest Airlines, its top carrier, add flights and increase its number of passengers by 73% to more than 8 million.

Allegiant led XNA growth

The public’s reduced concerns about the pandemic certainly played a role in XNA’s 35.8% growth in 2022, but so did the availability of more flights.

Allegiant Air in late 2021 added flights to St. Petersburg/Clearwater and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, and those flights were available for most of 2022. The availability of those flights and others for more days in 2022 helped XNA boost its passenger stats.

All six of the airlines serving XNA saw their number of passengers in 2022 climb at least 30% compared to 2021. The three leaders were Allegiant Air (51.5% more passengers), Breeze Airways (50.4%) and American Airlines (44%).

The Breeze increase can be linked to the airline serving XNA for only half of 2021 but all of 2022.