XNA might change name to Northwest Arkansas National Airport

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 4,385 views 

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Highfill might become Northwest Arkansas National Airport, if the board approves the change.

Board members of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority will discuss Wednesday (Dec. 11) whether to change the name.

Andrew Branch, chief business development officer for XNA, said if the board approves the change, passengers might start to see the changes on the website and signs in six months to a year. The airport must provide information on the change to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) but doesn’t need FAA approval to make the change. The airport’s three-letter code, XNA, would remain the same.

Changing the name would better communicate to where passengers can travel from XNA, Branch said.

“We’ve heard from multiple people, ‘When are you going to no longer be a regional airport? When are you going to be a national airport?’ And there’s not a hard set definition for a regional airport or a national airport,” Branch said. “But when you look at Springfield or Little Rock who are both national airports, they fly to fewer places than we do. If you go to Little Rock or Springfield, you can’t get to L.A. or San Francisco or to New York… We truly fly to both coasts.”

He noted the airport is going to start offering flights to Miami this month and has service to Minneapolis. XNA offers flights to 19 destinations, including seasonal routes, he said.

“We think it’s time,” Branch said, adding that the name change also will help from a perception standpoint when it talks to airlines as it works to attract new service.

Talk about changing the name started from passengers, largely on social media, who asked about changing it, Branch said. And with the number of routes XNA offers compared to peer airports, he explained it made sense to look at the change. The airport also is coming close to reaching 1 million enplanements in a year. Branch expects that to happen within the next few years. Between January and October, enplanements, or the number of passengers flying out, have risen 16.8% to 768,650, from the same period in 2018.

If the board approves the change, the airport will start to update its business cards, checks and other things with the existing name, he said. However, he doesn’t expect the logo to change, with the exception of the name in it.

XNA opened for commercial service in November 1998.

The airport board also will discuss Wednesday updating its bylaws, and the name change would be included in the new bylaws. The board could make the change without updating the bylaws, but the latter would require approval from the five cities and two counties. Representatives of those cities and counties serve as board members of XNA.

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