Northwest Arkansas Council establishes program, website promoting XNA

by Talk Business & Politics staff (staff2@talkbusiness.net) 1,055 views 

The Northwest Arkansas Council announced Monday (June 3) the launch of a new website to help airline passengers find the best fares and promote flying from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Highfill.

The new website, FareFlightNWA.org, was established as part of the council’s FareFlightNWA program, with goals to raise awareness of and attract air travelers to XNA. A feature of the new website is a cost calculator for air travelers, and it compares the cost of flights along with other transportation costs from XNA, Tulsa International Airport and Kansas City International Airport.

“While existing carriers offer excellent access for area residents, XNA has some of the highest fares in the country, making it a less attractive option,” said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of Northwest Arkansas Council. “The price of air travel is a key consideration, but XNA offers significant conveniences over other airports located many miles away, and there are acceptable fares available at XNA. Our goal is to highlight the benefits of XNA and publicize low fares anytime they become available.”

In April, XNA announced low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines would start to offer nonstop flights to Denver on June 27. Also, low-cost carrier Allegiant Air recently announced it would start nonstop flights to Nashville this week.

“By working independently to grow the number of XNA passengers and ensuring the success of airlines offering affordable flights, we’ll be demonstrating that airlines with low-cost options can thrive at XNA,” Peacock said. “That benefits our business and leisure travelers.”

A domestic roundtrip flight costs more than $500, and XNA’s passengers have spent between $120 and $190 more per roundtrip in the past four years, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Compared to the national average, XNA passengers have been spending more than $100 million more for roundtrip flights in each of the past four years. XNA’s passengers save about $8 million annually for every $10 reduction in the airport’s average fare. High fares have led passengers to fly from other airports, such as in Tulsa and Kansas City, and this leakage, or the percentage of people who live near XNA but fly from other airports, is nearly 40%, according to a news release.

Some of the objectives of the FareFlightNWA program include “public presentations and conversations with large employers, small businesses, travel-focused organizations and civic groups about fares and air service at XNA,” the news release shows. “The council wants to arm travelers [with] the best information about XNA before they make travel decisions.”

The cost calculator on FareFlightNWA.org compares total costs, including fares, gasoline and parking at XNA and airports in Tulsa and Kansas City. Other features of the website include how flying from XNA benefits the region, such as its economic impact.

“Travelers are price sensitive, and they should be, “Peacock said. “We intend to arm people with the information they need to make their travel from XNA more affordable. At the same time, we want to make sure travelers recognize the conveniences to flying from close to home. Ultimately, we hope they choose XNA.”

The website has been available for a few weeks, and the council obtained a Twitter account for the program in January, said Rob Smith, communications and policy director for the Northwest Arkansas Council. The idea for the website and program has been in the works since at least mid-2018, and the effort to reduce fares by increasing competition and attract more air service has been supported by the council’s members for several years. Smith declined to say how much has been invested into the program.

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