Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA), the second-largest airport in the state, reported enplanements declined 95.6% in April.
Enplanements, or passengers flying out, fell to 3,151 in April, from 71,557 in the same month in 2019. Through April, enplanements have fallen 33.3% to 171,393, from the same period in 2019.
This compares to a 94.5% decrease in enplanements at Fort Smith Regional Airport in April, from the same month in 2019. Enplanements at the Fort Smith airport were 399 in April. Between January and April, enplanements have declined 36.4% to 17,483, from the same period in 2019.
“From what we were seeing at other airports around the country, we knew a drop like this was possible,” said Alex English, public relations and marketing specialist for XNA. When asked about the outlook for XNA’s enplanements, English noted any projections would have to be presented to the board and discussed before they could be made.
Airline capacity is projected to decline by 82% in May in North America, while international capacity is expected to fall by 93%, according to a report by Volaire Aviation Consulting. Data from the Transportation Security Administration shows the number of screened passengers started to rise in the last two weeks of April and might indicate that passenger demand has reached a bottom. Passenger screenings rose by 32%, from 88,000 per day to almost 130,000 per day, in the last two weeks of April. However, this represents about 5% of screenings that normally happen at this time of the year.
“On the lowest day of screenings, April 14, the TSA saw fewer passengers going through security at all airports in the country combined than it would have seen in a normal day at Seattle-Tacoma (International Airport),” the report shows.
Carriers serving XNA have cut capacity between 60% and 90% nationwide. Allegiant Air will cut as much as 90% of capacity. On April 28, the Department of Transportation ordered Allegiant to continue service to all points through September as part of its participation in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Congress and President Donald Trump approved in late March. Allegiant will receive $171.9 million in emergency relief as a result of the CARES Act.
American Airlines announced relief aid of almost $10.6 billion, with $5.8 billion from the grant program and $4.8 billion in a low-interest loan. Delta Air Lines and Frontier Airlines have sought exemptions under the CARES Act in order to suspend service. Frontier cut 90% of its capacity for May, while Delta slashed 80% of capacity for the month. United Airlines reported that it might have only 525 flights a day in June, or 10% of its flights in the same month in 2019.
Allegiant and Frontier had stopped flying into XNA but have since resumed flights. Allegiant is providing flights to Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and Frontier is offering service to Denver, English said.
This week, XNA started to require everyone who enters the terminal to wear a face covering. Children under 10 years old are exempt from the requirement.
Like XNA, Springdale-based transit provider Ozark Regional Transit will require passengers to wear a face covering starting May 18. Jeff Hatley, public information officer for ORT, explained with the economy reopening, more passengers will be using public transit, and ORT wanted to “get ahead of any issues.”
In March, XNA enplanements declined 52% to 33,792, from 70,463 in the same month in 2019. XNA was one of several Arkansas airports to receive relief aid from the CARES Act that included $10 billion for U.S. airports. Out of the $51 million dedicated for Arkansas airports, XNA received $8.21 million. XNA must retain at least 90% of its staff to remain eligible for the funding. XNA has not laid off any employee since the start of the health crisis, English said. XNA has 59 full-time and seven part-time employees.