United Airlines flights between Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will be suspended as a result of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
XNA has yet to cancel any flights as a result of the virus, but its air services development consultant notified airport officials Wednesday (March 4) that United Airlines would suspend flights between XNA and SFO from April 1 through Oct. 1, said Andrew Branch, chief business development officer for Northwest Arkansas National Airport.
“We expect that once the coronavirus is contained / under control, we will resume any flights that may be canceled in the coming weeks,” Branch said.
The suspension comes as Bentonville-based retailer Walmart said it would restrict all international travel business trips. The retailer also is canceling its Walmart U.S. Customer Conference in Dallas. In the United States, 10 people have died from the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 99 cases have been identified, and 13 states have reported cases.
XNA CEO Aaron Burkes previously said the Highfill airport would likely be affected by the virus for the next year until a vaccine is developed. While he doesn’t expect the virus to impact facility needs or projections over the next five to 10 years, he said the virus might affect enplanement growth and lead it to flatten over the short-term. Burkes said when considering how the virus might affect XNA, one can look to airline stocks, which have fallen 40% to 50% in the past month.
In 2015, United Airlines announced it would start to offer nonstop flights between San Francisco and XNA, according to an Aug. 31, 2015, Talk Business & Politics article.
“Many major Walmart suppliers are based in San Francisco, including Levi Strauss & Co., Clorox and Del Monte,” the article noted. “The new route will fast-track executives and company representatives between their respective home offices and Walmart headquarters in Bentonville. Walmart’s commitment to e-commerce and omnichannel growth requires efficient transportation options between Bentonville and Silicon Valley. Walmart also recently made major commitments to its Chinese operations.”