Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) will start to offer nonstop flights to Denver for as low as $39 starting June 27, officials said.
Jonathon Nield, senior manager of network planning for Denver-based low-cost carrier Frontier, announced Monday (April 8) the airline would offer the flights on a 186-seat Airbus A320 Family aircraft on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Tickets for the $39 introductory rate must be purchased by April 10, and the fares after the initial rate will vary depending on how quickly seats are booked. The service also will allow for a connection to other nonstop flights from the hub in Denver, and tickets can be purchased on the company’s website allowing for the other connecting flights.
“We see that this is a very large community and a very economically vibrant community, and the ratio of its service to its economic activity is very off,” Nield said. “There’s way less service than there should be for a city of this size and caliber. So that’s really the reason we decided it’s time to come here. Looking at the high fares that people are willing to pay, they don’t want to, but they’re willing to, means that if we can come in and charge a fare that’s 60% to 70% lower, we know that a lot more people are going to choose to fly. And that is an economic option for them.”
The success of the new Denver flight will determine whether the carrier will add flights from XNA to other cities and whether to increase flight frequencies, Nield said. He declined to say what other flights the carrier was looking at, citing competition. “The critical thing about this is we are very, very confident in the service and that it will work, and all of you are very much showing the support you have for our service already.”
Nield expects the leisure travelers who had previously been traveling to other airports with lower fares such as Tulsa to start to travel more from XNA. About 30% of XNA passengers are leisure travelers, while more than 60% travel for business. Nield said the carrier typically doesn’t target large corporations, but the new service could benefit smaller companies and startups looking for lower fares. If he were to fly from Denver to XNA using existing carriers, he said the round trip price would have been about $840. According to the Frontier website, a roundtrip flight from XNA to Denver is $298 for an adult, departing XNA June 27 and returning June 30.
Kelly Johnson, chief operating officer for XNA, has been working to attract Frontier to XNA for eight years.
“We couldn’t be more pleased,” she said. “It’s just going to really make a difference to our community, especially our vacation travelers, who either don’t go, or drive or drive to another airport.”
Because Denver is an existing market for XNA, the airport can waive all rates, fees and charges for one year and offer an advertising incentive up to $100,000, Johnson said. The Federal Aviation Administration allows for specific parameters airports can offer.
“We want to urge all the residents and travelers who fly XNA to use this new service whenever possible,” said Blake Woolsey, chairwoman of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority. “That’s going to be critical for them to be successful because this is a significant step in the development of commercial air service for XNA as well as for our region.”
The flights to Denver will depart XNA at 5:47 p.m. and arrive in Denver at 6:50 p.m. The flights to XNA will depart Denver at 1:58 p.m. and arrive at XNA at 4:57 p.m. Link here for flight schedules.
“Because the flight gets into Denver at 6:50 p.m. and the flight leaving Denver gets out a 1:58 p.m., because of that schedule, you all are going to have access as a community to our hub network in Denver,” Nield said. “So what that means is not only can you fly to Denver, you’re going to be able to fly L.A., Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Las Vegas, Ontario.”
When asked if passengers can fly their bicycles, Nield said they can for an extra fee. According to the carrier, the checked bike fee is $75 per flight.
XNA marks the 100th destination that Frontier will serve from Denver.
“This gives us a direct pipeline to talent, gives a chance to bring talent in so they can see what they’ve been missing in Bentonville,” said Graham Cobb, president and CEO of the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce. “Bikes alone generated $137 million of economic impact for the region in 2017. So opening up 400 miles of great single-track to Colorado will increase that.”
“The Frontier Airlines bridge to Denver matters a lot to Northwest Arkansas because it creates a deeper connection between two regions that superior business, outdoors and art communities,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “This really is a critical business connection, and that’s a key reason why it’s important for Northwest Arkansas Council. Having new affordable air service in our region creates that ability to attract and retain talent. Affordable flights going west certainly creates additional business community opportunities, but also allows our leisure travelers to have better and broader experiences.”