More Northwest Arkansas travelers booked flights with Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) in Highfill last year instead of opting to fly from other airports in the region, according to a new study. XNA officials attributed the rise to leisure travelers taking advantage of lower fares.
Volaire Aviation Consulting recently released the Traffic Retention and Leakage Study for 2019 that shows a 7.8-percentage point rise in travelers in XNA’s catchment area who booked their flights with XNA rather than with other airports. The catchment area includes 142 ZIP codes in Northwest Arkansas, northeast Oklahoma and southwest Missouri, and XNA captured 73.7% of the market in 2019, up from 65.9% in 2018.
Leakage refers to the travelers in the catchment area who travel using competing airports, and the largest share of leakage (10.4%) went to Tulsa International Airport. In 2018, the airport captured a 16.8% share of the travelers in XNA’s catchment area. In 2019, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport captured the next largest share at 3.8%, up from 3.6% in 2018.
“We are capturing the vast majority — approximately 84% — of passengers who live in the I-49 corridor cities of Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville,” said Alex English, public relations and marketing specialist for XNA. “Leisure travelers are likely driving most of the gain in market retention. The decline in average fares through XNA makes it possible to capture a larger share of price-sensitive leisure travelers.”
Average fares at XNA fell 8.9% to $265 in 2019, from $291 in 2018. Over the same period, average fares at Tulsa International Airport rose 4.4% to $189, from $181. The airport had the lowest average fares in the study. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had the highest at $328, up 6.5% from $308 in 2018.
The number of flights at XNA rose in 2019 with the arrival of Frontier Airlines, providing service to Denver; Allegiant Air adding several seasonal routes, including Nashville, Tenn., Destin, Fla., and Phoenix, Ariz.; and American Airlines starting flights to Miami and Philadelphia, English said. United Airlines also expanded flights to Denver, and Delta Air Lines added service from XNA with competitive rates, she added.
Enplanements, or the number of passengers flying out, have fallen 59.1% to 247,574 between January and August, from 605,036 in the same period in 2019. In August, enplanements were 25,068, down 68.5% from the same month in 2019.