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The cost of flying to Northwest Arkansas National Airport’s top three destinations declined more than 10% in the most recent quarter, new data shows.

Roundtrips to Chicago, XNA’s No. 1 destination during the third quarter 2023, averaged $364. That’s $164 less expensive than in the third quarter 2019.

That 31% price decrease was significant as were the cost improvements for trips to No. 2 Los Angeles (12.9% less) and No. 3 Orlando/Sanford (11.7% less).

The analysis of the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics information by Volaire Aviation Consulting shows the average cost of a domestic trip departing from XNA during the third quarter improved by 1% to $454. The average remains $104 higher than the average airfare from airports in the lower 48 states.

Airfare from XNA and every airport plummeting during the COVID-19 pandemic, and XNA’s average roundtrip bottomed out at $278 in the second quarter 2020. After that, it started rising on a consistent basis, topping out at $508 in the fourth quarter 2022.

Chicago competition

The Windy City has been the final destination of the highest number of XNA travelers in two consecutive quarters, the data shows. Prior to that and outside of the pandemic, it was consistently near the top but never at the top.

XNA passengers in the third quarter were more likely to find a lower fare on United Airlines trips to Chicago than on competitor American Airlines ($334 vs. $406 roundtrip).

United, in fact, had a lower average fare in seven consecutive quarters when compared to American, but the third quarter last year was the first time United carried more XNA passengers to Chicago. The airline captured 87 of the 152 people a day who made the trip.

Far more LA

XNA saw 146 people a day leave for Los Angeles, a significant boost from the 120 a day who traveled there in the third quarter 2019.

The vast majority of those travelers (88 of the 146) relied on American to get there. The average American fare was $584.

Most of the other passengers used Allegiant Air, which flies to LA twice a week most of the time but sometimes increases to three-times-a-week service. Its 42 passengers a day averaged $202.

Best overall fares

United generally won the price war at XNA when compared to American and Delta Air Lines, the Volaire analysis shows.

United’s fare during the third quarter averaged $506 roundtrip compared to American ($558) and Delta ($546).

What drives down XNA’s average fare for a domestic trip to $454 are low-cost carriers Allegiant, Breeze Airways and Frontier Airlines.

They are led by Allegiant ($126 roundtrip), but there are good deals to be found on Frontier ($150) and Breeze ($180).

However, it’s more than just the fare when it comes to Allegiant, Breeze and Frontier.

While just about every airline charges fees for checking bags and carry-ons, Frontier, Breeze and Allegiant have many other charges that add to the cost of flying.

Allegiant, for example, tacks on an “electronic usage charge” of $22 each way to the price of every ticket purchased over the internet.

Frontier has a similar charge for purchasing tickets via the airline’s website ($23 per ticket), calling it a “carrier interface charge.”

Breeze, meanwhile, has a “technology development charge,” and it’s a $47 portion of a roundtrip flight from XNA.